Global oil giant Shell on Friday announced it had reached an agreement to sell its downstream businesses in Australia to Dutch-owned energy trader Vitol for 2.6 billion U.S. dollars. Shell says the sale covers its Geelong Refinery and 870-site retail business, along with its bulk fuels, bitumen, chemicals and part of its lubricants businesses in Australia, but it does not include the Aviation business, which will remain with Shell Group. "The majority of Shell's downstream staff in Australia will continue to operate the business under its new owner," Shell said in a statement. "Shell's upstream operations in Australia, in which it will continue to invest, are not impacted by this announcement." The deal with Vitol is subject to regulatory approvals and is expected to close in 2014. The Vitol Group was founded in 1966 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Since then the company has grown significantly to become the world's largest independent energy trader. Shell's Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden insists that Australia remains important to Shell but the company is making tough portfolio choices to improve its overall competitiveness. "Our customers will continue to benefit from the quality associated with the Shell brand and we are confident Vitol will invest in and grow the business," Beurden said in the statement. Vitol President Ian Taylor said the acquisition was an exciting one for the company. "Australia is a growing economy and we look forward to working with the management team to strengthen and grow the business," Taylor said. Shell has recently divested several downstream businesses including the sale of refineries in the UK, Germany, France, Norway and the Czech Republic. The company has also sold its downstream businesses in Egypt, Spain, Greece, Finland and Sweden.