Royal Dutch Shell has agreed to sell 185 UK petrol stations, adding to the portfolios of fast-growing independent forecourt operators.
Britain’s biggest oil company said it had exchanged contracts to sell 90 of the stations to Motor Fuel Group and 68 to Euro Garages. It expects to exchange contracts on the remaining sites soon.
The petrol stations are spread across the UK and will keep the Shell brand – the new owners will sell Shell fuel for at least five years after completion of the sale.
Shell said in September it wanted to sell up to 250 petrol stations and in time cut the number it owns to about half of its roughly 1,000 branded stations.
The company said on Monday it would keep the remaining 65 stations open. It did not reveal the financial terms of the deals or where the petrol stations were based.
David Moss, Shell’s retail general manager for northern Europe, said: “I’m pleased these dealers have chosen to grow their businesses with Shell. Our priority is to ensure a consistently excellent customer offer is available across our network, whether the service station is owned by Shell or by an independent dealer.”
Motor Fuel, based in St Albans, Hertfordshire, owns about 280 petrol stations under brands including BP, Jet and Texaco. Blackburn, Lancashire-based Euro Garages owns almost 200 sites, including some under the Shell brand, mainly in the north of England, the Midlands and Wales.
Shell said Motor Fuel and Euro Garages would make the investment needed to develop the sites. Both companies have been buying up petrol stations, some of them from big oil companies that want to reduce petrol retailing or quit the business altogether. The operators then add food and retail outlets to the basic petrol service.
Motor Fuel’s service stations have Costcutter convenience stores and Costa Express coffee outlets. Its latest acquisition will add Shell to the other petrol brands it operates under.
Motor Fuel’s managing director, Jeremy Clarke, said: “We are delighted to be bringing another major brand to the MFG network. This acquisition gives us 90 high-volume, quality stations that reinforce our commitment to become one of the most dynamic and profitable independent forecourt operators in the UK.”
Euro Garages brings in food and drink chains such as Greggs, Starbucks and Subway. The company’s owners, the Issa brothers, started with one filling station in Bury, Greater Manchester, in 2001. They now employ more than 3,200 people. Profit before interest, tax and other items rose 67% to £30m on sales of £646m in the year to 31 July 2014.
Zuber Issa said: “The site portfolio secured extends our UK presence and consolidates our existing forecourt estate.” The company had said it wanted to expand into the south of England.
Shell announced last year it would sell refining, processing and retail operations across Europe to cut costs after a plunge in the price of oil. Its £47bn takeover of competitor BG Group, announced last week, was also partly prompted by the fall in the oil price.
This article was written by Sean Farrell, for theguardian.com on Monday 13th April 2015 16.23 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010