MHA Moore and Smalley advises as Cumbria petrol station operator sold to national firm

A family-owned business operating six petrol stations across Cumbria has been purchased by a large national operator in a deal supported by MHA Moore and Smalley.

Auk Investments has been sold to Motor Fuel Group (MFG) for an undisclosed sum. MFG operates more than 900 sites across the UK and the deal will allow the company to gain a foothold in the Lake District.

Auk Investments reported a turnover of £27 million for the year to March 2020 and is managed by siblings Angus, Marcus and Simon Hockings.

The company was advised on the sale by Paul Williams, partner at our Preston office as well as our corporate finance director Stephen Gregson and tax partner Tony Medcalf.

Paul said: “Auk Investments is a long-standing client of the firm and we are extremely pleased to have led on this deal, which meets the family’s objectives and passes the firm over to a good custodian in MFG.”

The deal was originally agreed early this year. After being put on hold due to the economic implications of coronavirus, it was then revived in October on the same headline terms.

“The fact the sale was only put on hold due to coronavirus disruptions suggests to us that, for the right businesses, there is an appetite nationally for deals. Growth is firmly on the agenda for many businesses despite the ongoing economic challenges coronavirus has brought,” added Paul.

Simon Hockings, managing director, Auk Investments, said: “My brothers and I have operated our filling station business in the Lake District for many years after Dad bought his first site in 1970s.

“I think we have done him proud but times are changing quickly in the industry and we felt it was the right time to move on. We are pleased to be handing the sites over to Motor Fuel Group, their stewardship will bring further investment including addressing the growth of electric vehicles. We wish them all the very best.”

Simon is also director of bicycle retail and hire company Biketreks which operates two sites in Cumbria. The company’s Ings site is based at one of Auk Investments’s petrol station sites and the company will continue to operate at the site.

Auk Investments also received legal advice on the deal from Jack Stephenson, Harrison Drury.

Simon added: “We would like to thank our professional advisors who have helped get this deal over the line. We will continue to work with both MHA Moore and Smalley and Harrison Drury to grow our remaining property and cycling related interests.”

This acquisition brings the total number of stations operated by MFG to 911.

William Bannister, chief executive, MFG said: “AUK is a well-respected family business in the Lake District. The six stations that we have purchased from them give us the opportunity to extend our network coverage into Cumbria in what is normally, a thriving tourist area.”

“We have acquired three BP branded and three Shell branded stations and we will, in-line with our standard business model, improve the shop offer for customers and introduce a ‘food to go’ option where appropriate to help ensure the sites become a destination for both the local community and visiting tourists.”