Competition authorities have warned the number one Top 50 Indie MRH that it could face a full scale inquiry because of concerns caused by its acquisition of a tranche of 78 sites from Esso, in a deal agreed in March.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has told MRH it is concerned about competition in local areas of Brighton and Cambridge where MRH has acquired Esso sites and the next nearest filling station is also owned by MRH.

The CMA said it was concerned that the merger could lead to higher petrol and diesel prices for drivers in these areas.

However, it added that MRH could avoid the deal being referred for an in-depth phase two investigation if it could offer an acceptable solution to address the CMA’s concerns by 3 December.

David Hathaway, MRH company secretary, said: “We are considering our options.”

Last year another leading Top 50 Indie, MFG, faced a similar situation about a site in Hythe, Kent, that it acquired as part of the Murco business. It averted a phase two inquiry by agreeing to sell the site.

Andrea Coscelli, executive director, markets and mergers and decision-maker in this case, said: “Price competition is very important in this market. In two local areas in Brighton and Cambridge we are concerned that, after the merger, there will be insufficient competition from other owners of petrol stations to prevent higher prices, or lower service levels, for drivers. We therefore plan to refer the merger for an in-depth investigation unless MRH offers acceptable remedies in these two local areas.”