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Marathon spinoff may attract local investors

Split spurs interest in Findlay company

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The Marathon Petroleum Corp. stock will begin trading Friday on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol 'MPC.'

The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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As Marathon Petroleum Corp. becomes northwest Ohio's largest public company, finance experts say the Findlay firm's stock could be a hot commodity with local investors.

Marathon Petroleum spins off Thursday from Houston-based Marathon Oil Corp., but its stock will begin trading Friday on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol "MPC." The split from Marathon Oil will make Marathon Petroleum the fifth largest oil refiner in the country and the largest company in metro Toledo, with $62.5 billion in sales last year.

"It's a great opportunity for Marathon Petroleum Corp. moving forward to chart out its own path, and we're very much looking for it," said Angelia Graves, a spokesman for the company. She said employees will commemorate the spinoff with celebrations throughout the day.

The new stock began advance trading of "when issued" shares late last week. They traded at about $39 a share Wednesday. Private brokerage clients buy the stock at a set price and receive the shares when trading begins on the stock exchange.

Investors will be able to buy Marathon Petroleum's stock Friday on the open stock market.

Shareholders will receive one share of Marathon Petroleum stock for every two shares of Marathon Oil stock held as of the close of business Monday.

Marathon Oil's stock trades under the ticker symbol "MRO" for about $51 a share.

Rich Rowe, a financial adviser with Edward Jones in Findlay, said his office has received several calls in the last two weeks from investors who wanted to buy Marathon Oil shares so they could own stock in both companies after Thursday's split.

About two-thirds of the investors did not previously own Marathon Oil shares, he estimated.

"There's always been some interest because it's a great company and it's local, but it got more interest with the split coming up," Mr. Rowe said.

Alan Lancz, director of Toledo-based investment research firm LanczGlobal LLC, said the buzz around Marathon Petroleum's spin-off is similar to that of General Motors Co.'s initial public stock offering in November.

"You can have some excitement here, especially with energy prices moving up the last two days," he said.

Marathon Petroleum says the split will result in a distribution of 356 million shares. The Internal Revenue Service qualified the spinoff as a tax-free distribution last month, preventing Marathon and its shareholders from incurring added tax liability from the split.

The company has the authority to issue 1 billion shares of common stock and 30 million shares of preferred stock, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Ms. Graves of Marathon Petroleum said Friday's trading will include only the shares distributed under the stock split, and that no preferred shares have been issued.

John Irwin, a broker with Edward Jones in nearby Fostoria, said interest in Marathon Petroleum's stock has been on par with local interest in Marathon Oil shares, which tend to become more popular when oil prices rise.

While he hasn't noticed a significant increase in Marathon-related investing, Mr. Irwin said the Marathon Petroleum spinoff has been receiving positive feedback in the community.

"I think everybody thinks that's going to be a good thing for the area," he said. "We're glad to see them staying."

Contact Sheena Harrison at: sharrison@theblade.com or 419-724-6103.

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