CD&R-backed Motor Fuel Group closes in on £2.5bn Morrisons deal

Wm Morrison, the supermarket chain, is closing in on a £2.5bn deal to sell its petrol forecourts portfolio to another company backed by the same private equity firm.

Sky News understands that Motor Fuel Group (MFG) is weeks away from agreeing the takeover of Morrisons' fuel retailing empire.

Both Morrisons and MFG are majority-owned by Clayton Dubilier & Rice (CD&R), the American buyout firm, and the talks between them - revealed by Sky News last September - are now on the verge of a formal agreement.

One source said a deal was expected to be announced by early February.

Morrisons' fuel retailing operations encompass about 340 sites, with another 150 potentially being added as MFG targets the rapid expansion of its ultra-fast electric vehicle (EV) charging network.

If completed, it will echo a deal announced last year which saw Asda acquiring EG Group's petrol stations in the UK and Ireland.

Morrisons is expected to use a significant chunk of the proceeds of the deal to pay down part of its £5.7bn debt pile, according to insiders.

It would also, they said, strengthen Morrisons' ability to invest in its wholesale and convenience offerings.

CD&R's £7bn takeover of Morrisons in 2021 was scrutinised by competition regulators partly on the basis of the buyout firm's existing ownership of MFG.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) ruled that the sale of 87 of MFG's petrol forecourts would be sufficient to alleviate its concerns.

That deal has since been completed.

The addition of high-quality convenience retailing operations to fuel retail sites has made it one of the most intense battlegrounds for British shoppers in recent years.

However, fuel retailers have drawn intense scrutiny from the government and CMA in recent months as ministers have sought ways to ease the cost of living crisis.

Last July, the then energy secretary, Grant Shapps, said forecourt operators would be forced to publish live prices in order to provide motorists with greater transparency.

MFG is understood to have invested £400m in the last decade on its EV charging network.

None of the parties contacted by Sky News would comment.