Royal Dutch Shell is selling around a quarter of its UK petrol stations as part of a strategy to grow its fuel dealer network instead of owning retail outlets directly.
The UK’s largest oil and gas company said it had agreed deals to sell 185 of its existing service stations, reducing the number held under full ownership to 550.
Motor Fuel Group, which recently acquired the retail assets of Murco Petroleum, has purchased 90 of the sites and Euro Garages a further 68, with Shell exchanging contracts on the remainder in the coming weeks. The company said the handover of the service stations will be completed by the end of 2015.
The sold-off petrol stations will continue to sell Shell fuels for at least five years.
David Moss, Shell’s retail general manager for North Europe, said the new owners were selected because they “will invest in the sites”. The company declined to provide a value for the deals, which will leave Shell with 550 sites that it directly owns.
Major oil and gas companies have been offloading their retail sites, which are increasingly diversifying into the “mini-supermarket” space as the likes of M&S and Waitrose team up with major fuel brands. However, the sale of the stations is an apparent reversal in strategy for Shell, which in 2011 had acquired 254 retail sites from Rontec Investments for £250m.
The sale of the service stations comes as Shell focuses on completing the biggest oil and gas merger deal in UK corporate history. Last week the company said it had tabled a £47bn offer to buy BG Group.
By Andrew Critchlow