Total UK has confirmed the potential sale of its entire UK marketing assets. These comprise its retail network; home heating oil business; Isle of Man operations; as well as its Jersey and Guernsey operations and associated logistics. It’s a radical move with far-reaching consequences for the structure of the UK market, particularly as Murco is also up for sale. Total has around 500 company-owned sites and 300 dealers.
At present, there is much speculation about who the likely purchasers will be but the message from Total head office is simple: ’It’s business as usual’. Dealers across the UK have mixed feelings. Peter Hockenhull, managing director of Top 50 Indie Hockenhull Garages, said he was disappointed because he felt the organisation within Total was very good. "I hope whoever does come along to buy it will retain that structure," he said.
But Susie Hawkins, director of Simon Smith Group, said it might give her firm the "kick in the rear" that it needed to do something different.
"We’ve been thinking about having our own brand of fuel and this might just prompt us to do it earlier," she said.
John Lynn, managing director of the UK’s largest independent forecourt operator, MRH, said he felt "pretty neutral" about Total’s move. "We have 300-odd sites and only 10% are with Total, so it’s one of our small suppliers.
"Potentially it’s an opportunity but possibly a risk. Looking at next year, we have four or five Total sites due to renew but that won’t worry us. If we don’t like the new supplier, we will just change."
Some dealers suggested Chinese or Russian companies as the most likely contenders to buy Total.