UPDATE 1-Mexico's Pemex opens first branded gas station outside Mexico
(Adds detail about Mexico's energy reform)
HOUSTON Dec 3 (Reuters) - Mexico's state-run oil company Pemex has expanded its brand to Houston, Texas, with the first gasoline station bearing its name outside of Mexico, the company said on Thursday.
The station south of downtown Houston is the first of five to open in the city, chosen for Pemex's expansion because of its large Hispanic population and competitive gasoline station market.
Pemex noted that gasoline sold at the Houston stations will come from the U.S. wholesale market, not Mexico, which is importing some 650,000 barrels per day (bpd) of U.S.-made refined products to meet its own demand.
The company said establishing Pemex-branded stations in Texas stems from its mandate to generate value as part of Mexico's energy reform. Results of Pemex's entrance into the Houston market will help gauge similar opportunities elsewhere, the company said.
"It is an ideal place to test the brand penetration," Pemex said.
The company noted that the stations will be franchises owned by third parties who will determine retail fuel prices according to Houston market conditions.
In Mexico, a sweeping energy reform finalized last year ended Pemex's decades-long monopoly and will soon require it to compete at home for retail fuel customers for the first time.
The reform will permit non-Pemex companies to distribute imported gasoline starting in 2017, and then allow private firms to refine crude and sell fuels at market prices in 2018. (Reporting by Kristen Hays and Marianna Parraga in Houston and David Alire Garcia in Mexico City; Editing by James Dalgleish)
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