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Petrol Station Property Is Big Business As USS Invests £400M

BP has raised much-needed cash through selling property.

The number of petrol stations in the UK has dropped from 38,000 to less than 9,000 in the past 50 years, but they are clearly still big business. The Issa brothers made so much money from them that last week they were part of a consortium that bought supermarket chain Asda for £6.8B. And this week one of the UK’s largest institutional investors dropped £400M on a stake in a portfolio of petrol stations. 

The investment arm of the Universities Superannuation Scheme has paid oil company BP £400M for a 49% stake in the freehold of 199 petrol stations across the UK. The sale-and-leaseback deal sees a new JV between USS and BP own the sites, on which BP has taken a 20-year lease. The lease has annual rent reviews linked to inflation. 

The rationale for the deal is clear for both sides. USS gets long-term stable income with which to pay its pension liabilities. And BP frees up much-needed cash from its property estate. The company’s share price is at a 25-year low, with demand having plummeted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Issa brothers’ EG Group owns more than 5,200 petrol stations, mainly in Europe and the U.S., and employs more than 33,000 people. The Sunday Times estimates their fortune at more than £3.5B. 

Another big player in the sector is property veteran Gerald Ronson. The 246 freehold and leasehold petrol stations he owns are valued at £680M and produce revenue of £1.3B and £37M of operating profit.