Investors have snapped up two Top 50 Indie retailers in recent weeks, with experts saying the forecurt property market is "on fire".

Petrol Express has paid £8 million for fellow retailer Bond Hamill. The deal, announced by Global Natural Energy plc (GNE Group) - which owns Petrol Express, adds seven

freehold and one leasehold BP branded petrol station to the company’s portfolio in the Midlands and north of England. Petrol Express said the sale, organised by Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH), would increase fuel volumes by 31 million litres per annum and shop sales by £4 million.

Buckinghamshire-based Petrol Express was number eight in the Top Indies list 2007, with 58 sites and a turnover of £142 million.

Chesterfield-based Bond Hamill was number 27 in the listing, with a turnover of £38 million. GNE CEO Dennis Woods said: "The Bond Hamill sites were very well run with good convenience store locations which were already developed as convenience stores, and that’s the direction we want to go in. The value of forecourts has gone up and it’s not as easy to find a bargain any more ? we’re still looking to buy more sites though."

Meanwhile, QMP, which has seven sites in the north of England, has been bought by the Co-operative Group for an undisclosed sum. Six sites are Esso-branded and the seventh, Lowgates in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, is a newly extended and refurbished Shell site. The sale was organised by Christie & Co.QMP, number 35 in the Top Indies list with a turnover of £6 million, was started by Henry and Christine Kordowicz in 1997.

The sales show how the Top 50 Indies list is changing fast - work on this year’s listing is about to start. John Coulling, associate director of LSH’s motor trade and roadside department, said demand for trading petrol stations had gone through the roof and the market continued to look healthy for quality sites - despite the credit squeeze. He added: "It’s turned around completely. A couple of years ago the market was in the doldrums and sites were being sold off for non-fuel use. But now the whole market has changed, there aren’t as many sites available and sales volumes are higher. People are now actively looking for sites to buy - in the past two to three years the value of an operative forecourt site has doubled.

"The market is on fire. We’ve got people queuing up to buy good quality sites. Our clients are still acquisitive and I welcome discussions with other group operators who may wish to sell."

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