If the Road to Zero plan finally published by the Department for Transport (DfT), the Clean Air Strategy published by the Department for Food, Rural Affairs and Environment (DEFRA) together with the demonisation of diesel were not sufficient worries for the UK fuels retailing industry, the proposed £12bn merger of Sainsbury’s and Asda plus MFG’s £1.2bn acquisition of MRH just add to future uncertainty.
These two mega deals are both being scrutinised by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The CMA found that competition provided by other major petrol retailers and supermarkets would ensure that the MFG/MRH merger would not result in higher prices for motorists across the country as a whole. However, after conducting an initial investigation, it determined that there are 29 sites where it felt that price competition could be compromised. Based on previous such cases, the quick and least costly solution may be for MFG to sell off those sites identified, which could prove an opportunity for dealers to increase their forecourt portfolios.
Regarding the Sainsbury’s/Asda merger, the CMA confirmed to PRA it will be launching a formal investigation. This will cover all products and services in which the merging parties compete within the UK, including the supply of fuel.
Sainsbury’s proposed tie up with Asda is promoting the most comment with Conservative MP Robert Halfon writing to the CMA to express his serious concerns over the price of petrol and diesel as their combined volumes will ensure the largest single market share at 17.9%.
The CMA has recently announced that Professor Howard Smith from the Economics faculty at Oxford University will be assisting their investigations. It may be that an official Inquiry determines that supermarket sites too closely located should be selectively sold off to satisfy competition concerns.
With Sainsburys and Asda having a combined 630 forecourts, it is likely that some of the disposals could include fuel retailing assets so could such a move also present a new and exciting opportunity for acquisitive dealers?