Press release

Petrol station merger has chance to avoid in-depth investigation

MRH has the chance to avoid a full merger investigation following its acquisition of 78 Esso petrol stations.

Petrol pump

Following its initial investigation, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has found that the deal raises competition concerns in 2 local areas in Cambridge and Brighton.

In both these areas, the Esso site was the closest competitor to the local MRH station before the acquisition. The CMA is concerned that the merger could lead to higher petrol and diesel prices for drivers in these areas.

However, MRH can avoid the deal being referred for an in-depth phase 2 investigation if it can offer an acceptable solution to address the CMA’s competition concerns in the 2 areas (see notes to editors).

Before the acquisition from Esso Petroleum Company Limited (Esso), MRH (GB) Limited owned and operated over 370 service stations in the UK, the majority of which are branded as either Esso, BP, Texaco or Jet.

The CMA did not find any competition concerns resulting from the deal in other areas of the country, either on a national or local basis.

Andrea Coscelli, Executive Director, Markets and Mergers and decision-maker in this case, said:

Price competition is very important in this market. In 2 local areas in Brighton and Cambridge we are concerned that, after the merger, there will be insufficient competition from other owners of petrol stations to prevent higher prices, or lower service levels, for drivers. We therefore plan to refer the merger for an in-depth investigation unless MRH offers acceptable remedies in these 2 local areas.

Notes for editors

  1. The CMA is the UK’s primary competition and consumer authority. It is an independent non-ministerial government department with responsibility for carrying out investigations into mergers, markets and the regulated industries and enforcing competition and consumer law.
  2. Under the Enterprise Act 2002 (the Act) the CMA has a duty to make a merger reference, resulting in a full phase 2 merger investigation, if the CMA believes that it is or may be the case that a ‘relevant merger situation’ has been created, or arrangements are in progress or in contemplation which, if carried into effect, will result in the creation of a relevant merger situation; and that the creation of that situation has resulted, or may be expected to result, in a substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the United Kingdom for goods or services.
  3. Under the Act a ‘relevant merger situation’ is created if 2 or more enterprises have ceased to be distinct enterprises; and the value of the turnover in the United Kingdom of the enterprise being taken over exceeds £70 million (‘the turnover test’) or as a result of the transaction, in relation to the supply of goods or services of any description, a 25% share of supply in the UK (or a substantial part of the UK) is created or enhanced (‘the share of supply test’).
  4. The CMA considers that it is under a duty to make a phase 2 merger reference in this case under the Act. However, the duty to refer is not exercised while the CMA is considering whether to accept undertakings in lieu of a reference. MRH has until 3 December 2015 to offer an undertaking to the CMA that might be accepted by the CMA. If no undertaking is offered or accepted, then the CMA will refer this merger for a phase 2 investigation.
  5. All the CMA’s functions in phase 2 merger investigations are performed by inquiry groups chosen from the CMA’s independent panel members. The appointed inquiry group are the decision-makers on merger investigations.
  6. The text of this decision will be placed on the case page as soon as is reasonably practicable.
  7. Enquiries should be directed to Siobhan Allen (, 020 3738 6460).
  8. For information on the CMA see our homepage, or follow us on Twitter @CMAgovuk, Flickr and LinkedIn. Sign up to our email alerts to receive updates on merger cases.
Published 26 November 2015