After a year of big merger and acquisition stories Euro Garages with EFR (European Forecourt Retail Group) and MFG's purchase of Synergie Holdings and Roadside Group to name just two the verdict on the forecourt property market is in. Last year was a good one demand is still strong, but it's a lack of supply that's the problem.
Barber Wadlow research (in association with Experian Catalist) recorded a 14% increase in petrol station property values in 2015 the fourth consecutive year of growth. This means values have now increased by nearly 50% since the bottom of the market in 2011, so a site worth £750,000 in 2011 is potentially worth £1.1m today.
It depends who the seller is, states Steve Rodell, director and head of retail at Christie & Co, when asked if it's a buyer's or seller's market. "For example, if you're an oil company and have a structured disposal programme that is linked to supply deals, it's a seller's market as so many dealers want an oil company disposal." David Collins, a director at Adlers, is more emphatic: "It's definitely a seller's market. There are so few opportunities available to smaller operators and there is a great deal of pent-up demand."
When it comes to the forecourt property market, it's very much a matter of opinion as to whether 2013 was a busy year or not. Anthony Keohane, director of automotive and roadside at Colliers, says 2013 was "another busy year" with the supermarkets and oil company/supermarket joint ventures continuing their expansion trail. "BP, with M&S, has been particularly active and Sainsbury's has now opened the first of a package of sites that it acquired from Rontec, in Horley.
The past 12 months has been one of the busiest periods in recent history in the forecourt property sector, according to Adam Wadlow, director at property adviser, Barber Wadlow. "We estimate that there have been over 1,100 petrol stations sold or let since the end of 2011, which represents an incredible 12% of the total number of forecourts (8,765 sites). But despite such an abundance of market activity, the general public's perception of the sector is similar to that of pubs that all appear to be closing!"
Anyone who has acquired a petrol forecourt business will know that there are many different elements to keep in mind during the buying process, which keep both the buyer and their lawyers busy.