Morrisons has triumphed in the battle to gain control of McColl’s Retail Group, one of Britain’s biggest convenience store chains, after a last-gasp offer to buy out its syndicate of bank lenders.
The supermarket giant saw off eleventh-hour competition from EG Group, the petrol station operator, with an offer that will see McColl’s stores and workforce preserved in their entirety.
The deal will be structured as a pre-pack administration, meaning Morrisons will buy McColl’s immediately after it enters insolvency proceedings overseen by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
Morrisons’ commitments to the future of McColl’s include retaining all 1,100 stores and 16,000 workers, as well as honouring all of its outstanding pension obligations, the insider added.
An improved offer to McColl’s lenders that would see them repaid immediately in full, satisfying their principal demand, was also among the decisive factors.
Morrisons’ status as a major creditor of McColl’s is also understood to have been influential.
The outcome followed a tussle over the future of one of the London stock market’s most unloved companies, with its shares having slumped from a valuation of £200m to become almost worthless.
On Friday evening, EG Group appeared to have sewn up a takeover of McColl’s, although its stance towards the company’s two pension schemes had begun to draw political scrutiny.
A spokesperson for the trustees said at the weekend: “Any company looking to acquire McColl’s must do the decent thing and ensure that promises made to staff about their pensions are honoured.
“We would be extremely surprised if any organisation with an interest in demonstrating good corporate citizenship were to use a pre-pack administration to cease supporting the schemes, with absolutely no engagement with the trustees.”
McColl’s is an important partner of Morrisons, operating hundreds of smaller shops under the Morrisons Daily brand.