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Wesholme School

Preston fuel oil firm is sold to AIM-listed group in major deal

Preston-based Ribble Fuel Oils

Preston-based family business Ribble Fuel Oils has been sold for an undisclosed sum to NWF Fuels, a £440m-turnover operation which is part of AIM-listed NWF Group plc. The deal will enable NWF fuels to drive geographical and operational synergies, while providing an exit for Ribble Fuel Oils’ sole shareholder David Hodge.

David Hodge, owner of Ribble Fuel Oils’ parent company Hermon Hodge Ltd, will retain and grow the lubricants side of the business, Broughton Lubricants, which was demerged from Ribble Fuel Oils ahead of the deal.

Established in 1967 by David Hodge’s father Hermon, Ribble Fuel Oils has a turnover of £61m and employs around 40 staff. The company is a UK fuel distributor of diesel, gas, fuel oil, industrial heating oil, kerosene and petrol.

With depots in Preston, Southport, Halifax and Kirkby Lonsdale, and utilising terminals in Manchester, Bramhall and Stanlow, the business also trades under the names Leighton Oils, Preston Fuels and Active Fuel Cards. The business has supply relationships with five major UK oil refiners and oil trading companies.

NWF is a leading distributor of fuel oil and fuel cards, delivering more than 500 million litres across the UK to 59,000 customers. It is the third largest independent fuel distributor in the UK having grown through acquisitions. The purchase of Ribble Fuel Oils is its third acquisition in the last eight months.

Richard Huxley, managing director at NWF Fuels, commented: “Over the years David and his team have built a business with a strong geographic presence and customer service ethos and I am delighted that we have acquired a business with the strong reputation of Ribble Fuel Oils. This acquisition fits perfectly with our plans to grow our network and coverage across the UK.”

David Hodge said: “The world has changed enormously since I joined the family business in 1985, but our reputation for being a flexible, friendly and local supplier offering great customer service has remained the same. NWF Fuels share our values and will ensure continuity for our customers and staff.”

David Hodge received lead financial advice on the transaction from MHA Moore and Smalley and legal advice from the corporate and commercial team at Harrison Drury.

The MHA Moore and Smalley team comprised Ian Waddingham (corporate finance), David Hackett and Tony Medcalf (tax), and Paul Williams (partner, corporate services). The Harrison Drury team was led by David Filmer (head of corporate), Kerry Southworth (corporate solicitor) and Owen McKenna (director in commercial property team).

Ian Waddingham commented: “The successful completion of this deal opens up fresh and exciting opportunities for David to drive forward Broughton Lubricants, having made a successful and rewarding contribution over many years to the broader family business.

“The transaction will also allow NWF Fuels to expand operationally and geographically. They have a highly capable management team, and I am confident the enlarged business will perform strongly.”

David Filmer added: “We’re pleased to have supported David as he fulfilled his ambition to realise value in a business that has been part of his life for many decades. We wish him well as he now seeks to grow Broughton Lubricants as a separate business interest.”