Nearly 60 million gallons of fuel move through Buckeye Partners L.P.'s pipelines every day, but the Breinigsville, Pa., company doesn't own a drop.
Instead of buying and selling fuel, Buckeye, like other pipeline companies, is paid to transport, store and load other companies' inventory onto trucks for delivery.
But its planned purchase of Farm & Home Oil Co., a fuel distributor and marketer in Telford, for $145.5 million will dramatically change the way Buckeye does business by making it the owner of some of the fuel that courses its 5,400 miles of pipelines.
The goal for Buckeye, which was founded in 1886 and whose owners have included the Standard Oil Co. and the Pennsylvania Railroad, is to squeeze more money out of underused pipelines and tanks, said Forrest E. Wylie, Buckeye's chief executive officer.
Farm & Home is primarily a wholesale distributor and marketer of home heating oil, gasoline, diesel and other fuels. It receives fuel from Buckeye and other pipeline companies and sells it to distributors who deliver fuel oil to residences or gasoline to retailers.
Buying Farm & Home brings Buckeye's reach closer to the consumer and bolsters its ability to increase the amount of fuel that goes through its pipes and tanks. The deal was announced Dec. 21 and is expected to close in the first quarter.
Buckeye and Farm & Home, which was founded in 1936, already have strong ties. About 70 percent of Farm & Home's volume, which totaled 550 million gallons over the last year, came through the Buckeye system.
Wylie said he thought Buckeye could double that volume over a number of years, as Farm & Home's marketing operation is expanded throughout the Buckeye system.
Farm & Home had $1.1 billion in sales during its fiscal year that ended June 30 and employs just under 200. Buckeye will hire all but a few members of the family that owns Farm & Home, Farm & Home's chief executive Richard Longacre said.
For Buckeye, Farm & Home is the second recent deal outside its traditional pipeline business. Buckeye agreed in July to pay $440 million for a natural gas storage facility in California.
After the Farm & Home deal was announced, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services affirmed its "BBB" rating - which is considered adequate - on Buckeye, but kept the outlook negative, noting that Farm & Home would introduce commodity risk into Buckeye's credit profile.
The ratings "have no cushion to withstand any further deterioration in Buckeye's business mix or credit metrics," S&P credit analyst Michael Grande wrote.
Buckeye's shares closed yesterday at $49.41, down 94 cents, or 1.87 percent on the New York Stock Exchange. They gained 6.3 percent last year, compared with the 5.6 percent gain by the Wachovia index of similar master limited partnerships.