It’s been a long time coming, but at last the Total deal is done. And not without its share of surprises who’d have guessed the big tranche of sites going to Shell? Many independents currently struggling to compete with Shell’s aggressive pricing stance will be quaking at the thought.
There was much speculation about potential purchasers following last year’s announcement that both Total and Murco were up for sale. But a lot of the talk then was of interest coming from India and China how wide of the mark that seems now. The Snax 24 consortium emerged as the lead bidder in spring, and since then the industry seems to have been somewhat in limbo waiting for the deal to be finalised.
For those at Murco, bravely soldiering on with the ’business as usual’ stance, while question marks about their own future stymie any long-term strategic plans, the conclusion of the Total deal may bring about an element of relief. They will be hoping the Murco assets might start attracting a bit more serious attention from investors and a deal concluded soon.
Meanwhile, it will take a while for the industry to digest the news and for more details to emerge about the newly sold Total operations. For starters, what will happen to the brand? How long will it remain? Many retailers will be very sorry to see it go, not just because Total UK has, for them, been a good company to work with. But also because it removes another major brand from the UK market, restricting choice and competitive supply deals. MRH has already found its own answer to that it’ll use its new brand TORQ in the absence of a viable supply deal with a major oil company. Could this be the way of things to come? Certainly Gerald Ronson has never been intimidated by any oil company. And with his newly expanded network of sites, he’ll have plenty of muscle in any negotiations. As a great innovator in the market in the golden days of Heron Service Stations, it’ll be fascinating to watch the business develop.