Halfords chair lined up to lead £1bn float of fuel retailer MRH

(c) Sky News 2018: <a href="http://news.sky.com/story/halfords-chair-lined-up-to-lead-1631bn-float-of-fuel-retailer-mrh-11251388">Halfords chair lined up to lead £1bn float of fuel retailer MRH</a>

The chairman of Halfords is being lined up to spearhead the £1bn-plus flotation of MRH GB, one of Britain's largest independent fuel retailers.

Sky News has learnt that Dennis Millard has been appointed as MRH GB's chairman, weeks before it plans to pull the trigger on a stock market listing.

Mr Millard, who is also on the boards of clothing retailer Superdry and Pets at Home Group, has chaired Halfords since 2009, meaning that he is likely to step down from that role within about 18 months.

His appointment at MRH GB is likely to boost the petrol forecourt operator's prospects of launching a successful initial public offering (IPO), even as volatility in equity markets is causing some float candidates to reconsider their timings.

A City source said on Thursday that the company, which is owned by the Texan private equity firm Lone Star Funds, had pencilled in the end of this month to announce its intention to float.

It was unclear on Thursday how much MRH GB is looking to raise through an IPO.

MRH GB has also been pursuing a potential sale to another fuel retailer amid expectations of consolidation in a market facing an uncertain future as electric vehicles increase their share of the automotive market.

Sky News revealed last month that Motor Fuel Group (MFG), another of Britain's biggest independent petrol retailers, has been hatching plans for a £2.5bn merger with MRH GB.

MFG, which is backed by the private equity firm Clayton Dubilier & Rice (CDR), and EG Group, another private equity-backed rival, have been told to table final offers for MRH GB by 23 February, according to insiders.

EG Group's ability to mount a bid could, however, be constrained by its $2.15bn takeover last week of Kroger's 762 petrol forecourts in the US.

MRH trades from about 450 sites, which are largely branded under the BP, Esso (Euronext: ES.NX - news) , Shell (LSE: RDSB.L - news) or Torq names, and include retail partners such as Costa, Greggs (Stuttgart: 41G1.SG - news) and Subway.

Meanwhile, MFG has almost 440 stations trading as BP, Shell, Texaco and JET, as well as a Murco-branded dealer network encompassing 190 stations in England, Scotland and Wales.

Lone Star has owned MRH since 2016, and last year hired bankers at Citi, JPMorgan (LSE: JPIU.L - news) and Numis Securities to oversee a public listing of the company.

Lazard (Frankfurt: A0DQP8 - news) is acting as the company's independent adviser.

"MRH and its shareholder are currently assessing a range of strategic options which may include a potential Initial Public Offering (IPO)," the company has previously said in a statement.

"No decisions have been made and there can be no certainty that any process will be formalised."

The company declined to comment on Mr Millard's appointment.