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Locke makes £200m move for UK petrol station chain

Murphy Oil Corporation, which owns petrol stations under the Murco brand, has struck a 200 million pound deal with Alasdair Locke. Picture: Alan Rennie

Murphy Oil Corporation, which owns petrol stations under the Murco brand, has struck a 200 million pound deal with Alasdair Locke. Picture: Alan Rennie

  • by GARETH MACKIE
 

OIL tycoon Alasdair Locke is understood to have struck a £200 million deal to acquire a chain of petrol stations from US-based Murphy Oil Corporation, which last month agreed to sell its troubled Welsh refinery as it retreats from the UK.

Locke, who netted more than £100m from the sale of Aberdeen-based driller Abbot Group in 2008, already has about 60 forecourts across the UK through his Motor Fuel Group (MFG) venture, which is backed by private equity firm Patron Capital.

It is believed that the purchase of Murphy’s network of more than 450 British petrol stations, which trade under the Murco banner, could be announced as early as today. The deal would mark the Arkansas-based oil group’s withdrawal from the UK following last month’s agreement to sell its Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, oil refinery to US entrepreneur Gary Klesch.

The takeover of Milford Haven by Klesch secured about 450 jobs at the closure-threatened refinery, which has the capacity to process 135,000 barrels of oil a day. Murphy, headed by president and chief executive Roger Jenkins, said at the time of the deal that talks over the sale of the Murco UK retail business were at an advanced stage.

A spokesman for Murco declined to comment last night, as did a spokeswoman for Patron Capital. It is thought that the chain could be sold for about £200m to Locke and Patron Capital, who teamed up in 2011 to acquire MFG for an estimated £40m. The two joined forces again last year to buy a further 54 petrol stations after securing backing from Royal Bank of Scotland’s property finance team.

Locke became one of Scotland’s richest men when he sold oil and gas services business Abbot six years ago. He founded the company in 1992 and floated it in London three years later.

The entrepreneur was executive chairman when US private equity firm First Reserve bought Abbot in a deal that valued the group at £906m, making it the largest private equity buyout seen in the drilling services industry.

In 2010, Abbot – by then renamed as KCA Deutag – changed hands again, with control passing to Pamplona Capital Management, and the company completed a $750m (£447m) refinancing in May. Underlying pre-tax profits at KCA grew 14.4 per cent to $300.9m last year.

Locke, a former investment banker, holds a degree in history and economics from Oxford and is now chairman of Hardy Oil & Gas and Ceramic Fuel Cells, an Aim-quoted maker of generators that convert natural gas into electricity and heat.

Last year, Patron joined forces with insurer Legal & General to buy housebuilder Cala in a deal that valued the Edinburgh-based group at £210m.

The private equity firm also owns Powerleague, the Paisley-headquartered five-a-side football pitch operator, and two years ago considered an offer for rival Goals Soccer Centres. However, it ultimately decided against making a bid for the East Kilbride firm, which later saw shareholders narrowly reject a proposed £73.1m takeover by a Canadian pension fund.

l Proserv, the Aberdeenshire-based energy services group, was yesterday reported to have been put up for sale by private equity house Intervale Capital with a price tag of about £500m.

The firm, which employs more than 2,200 people across 11 countries, is led by chief executive David Lamont and last year moved to its new corporate headquarters in Westhill.

The company has grown rapidly through a series of acquisitions, including the purchase in February of engineering firm KRG from its Japanese parent Torishima.

Proserv did not respond to a request for comment.

 

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