Morrisons takeover could lead to higher fuel prices, watchdog warns

Competition and Markets Authority says deal could lead to higher costs for motorists in 121 areas of Britain

Fuel prices, already at record levels, could be pushed higher in 121 locations across the UK as a result of the £7bn takeover of Morrisons by a US private equity firm, the consumer watchdog has said.

The Competition and Markets Authority opened an investigation in January into the supermarket chain’s takeover by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice (CD&R), examining matters including a potential lessening in competition between petrol forecourts.

With prices predicted to rise further if the war in Ukraine continues for much longer, the CMA found the takeover could make matters worse for motorists.

CD&R already owns the petrol station giant Motor Fuel Group (MFG) and won a lengthy auction to buy Bradford-based Morrisons in October.

MFG owns 921 petrol stations across England, Scotland and Wales, operating under several brand names, while Morrisons runs 339 petrol stations at its supermarkets.

The regulator voiced concerns over 121 areas where MFG and Morrisons both have forecourts and would face “limited competition” from other players after the merger.

Colin Raftery, a senior director of mergers at the CMA, said: “Prices for petrol and diesel have recently hit record highs, which makes it even more important that we don’t allow a lack of competition at the pump to make the situation worse.

“We’re concerned that this deal could lead to higher prices for motorists in some parts of the country. But if CD&R and Morrisons are able to address these concerns then we won’t need to move on to an in-depth investigation of the merger.”

In practice, this could mean CD&R offering to sell petrol stations in areas where the CMA believes consumers could be adversely affected.

Petrol hit a fresh high this week. Figures from the data firm Experian Catalist show the average cost of a litre of petrol at UK forecourts on Tuesday was 167.3p, while diesel was 179.7p.

Experts have said the continued war in Ukraine could lead to petrol soaring towards £2.50, while diesel could go as high as £3. The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, cut fuel duty by 5p in his spring statement on Wednesday.

CD&R has been approached for comment.


Rob Davies

The GuardianTramp

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