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Wal-Mart testing company gas stations

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. here is quietly testing company-owned gas stations at a small number of its stores, according to a Reuters report. The experiment, if expanded, could stymie its petroleum partner Murphy Oil Corp.'s fast-growing gas station business.

Wal-Mart currently has more than 800 Murphy gas stations in the parking lots of its stores, and the oil company has said it expects to open 100 more this year. The stations account for more than one-third of Murphy's revenue, but analysts said they generate very little of the company's profit.

The world's biggest retailer opened its fifth company-owned gas station last month at a new supercenter in northwest Arkansas, just minutes from its Bentonville headquarters. Wal-Mart opened one in Missouri earlier this year, about 15 minutes from Bentonville. The retailer has three others that it opened in Virginia about two years ago, but spokeswoman Sharon Weber told Reuters Wal-Mart wanted more locations closer to home, "so that we can really keep a close eye and test them well."

"It's something that Sam's Club has been doing quite successfully for some time," Weber said. "We're looking at it and we'll move forward as we can." Weber declined to comment on expansion plans, and said the retailer continues to have a "good partnership" with Murphy. She said Murphy was aware of the Wal-Mart-owned stations.

Wal-Mart's gas stations are concentrated in the U.S South and Southeast.
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