The forecourt sector in 2015 saw the conclusion of a seismic shift in ownership that has seen oil companies divesting assets and tying purchasing independents into supply agreements, according to Steve Rodell, managing director of the retail division of property specialist Christie & Co.
In the company’s latest business outlook, ’The Future of Business Revealed’, Rodell said around 70% of all sites were independently owned against 60% just five years ago. "This has resulted in the rise of the ’super dealers’ including Rontec, Euro Garages, MRH and Motor Fuel Group, who have all taken significant packages from the oil companies." He said this activity attracted private equity into the sector as investors saw an opportunity to buy a platform from which to acquire other operators.
Since the report was published MRH has, of course, been bought by US private equity firm Lone Star.
Rodell added that with the liquidity of funding, general appetite for acquisition and the lack of good stock, as well as less multi-site purchasing opportunities from the oil companies, the pressure on the supply of good forecourts would continue to push up prices. "This is good news if you’re planning to sell up," he said.
Some operators have considered leasing their sites rather than selling the freehold interest, and in many cases have been able to generate significant rents when the right opportunity presents itself.