In one of the last moves left to it, Mobil Corp. asked the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday to review a lower court's ruling blocking its bid to acquire Marathon Oil Co.
Mobil also submitted an emergency application asking Justice Sandra O'Connor to enjoin U.S. Steel Corp. from buying Marathon shares until the high court can review the case.
Time is running out on Mobil unless it can stop the clock on U.S. Steel's proposed $6.25 billion takeover of Marathon, a company rich in oil and gas reserves. Unless the Supreme Court steps in or another bidder appears, U.S. Steel may begin buying Marathon shares after midnight Jan. 6. More than enough shares have been offered to the steel producer to ensure the success of its takeover bid.
Yesterday Mobil asked the Supreme Court to review the antitrust case that has been made against its takeover bid in the context of Mobil's agreement with Amerada Hess under which Amerada Hess would take over Marathon's marketing, refining and transportation operations. That agreement was struck to defuse some of the antitrust arguments that had been made against the Mobil takeover. Those arguments focused mainly on the combined gasoline market share that Mobil and Marathon have in the Midwest.
Mobil noted in announcing its filing with the Supreme Court that the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in Clevland, where the antitrust case originated, declined to consider the agreement worked out between Mobil and Amerada Hess.
Mobil said it believes its arrangement with Amerada Hess would eliminate the antitrust objections to its proposed takeover of Marathon.
Neither Marathon nor U.S. Steel had any comment on the Mobil move.
"Mobil doesn't give up easily," said oil industry analyst Sanford Margoshes of Bache Halsey Stuart Shields Inc. Margoshes said that Mobil appears anxious to clarify antitrust guidelines as much as it can even if it fails in its attempt to win Marathon. That clarification would aid Mobil if it made another takeover effort, and many analysts believe Mobil will do so if it fails to win Marathon.
"It looks kind of grim from Mobil's standpoint," said Margoshes.
In its filing, Mobil asked the court to hear oral arguments next Tuesday, a step that is unlikely. Because Justice O'Connor is in charge of the circuit from which the lower court's case comes, she would be the one to act on Mobil's emergency appeal to preserve the status quo until the high court can review the case.
Mobil noted that unless O'Connor acts by Jan. 7, the issue probably will be moot.
She either could act herself or refer the matter to the full court. If she turns down Mobil's request, the company could ask another justice to grant its emergency appeal.