The French oil giant Total has put its estate of almost 500 forecourts up for sale as part of its proposals to pull out of the petrol pump market in Britain.
Total, the world's fourth largest energy group, revealed yesterday that it is reviewing its UK downstream operations, but the company said it would not pull out of the country altogether as it plans to keep its aviation and lubricants businesses.
The group, which has been selling products in the UK for 55 years, is also investing £2.5bn in its North Sea oil and gas exploration subsidiary.
As well as 480 directly owned forecourts, the proposed sale covers Total's agreement to supply 300 independent stations that carry its logo.
There was speculation last night that the Russian energy giant Gazprom could be a potential buyer of the branded service stations, which account for almost 10 per cent of the UK market, selling more than three billion litres of fuel and lubricants each year.
A statement from Total UK confirmed the "strategic review" of its downstream operations – forecourts and heating oil – and the prospective forecourt sale.
The announcement will prompt concern because Total employs 6,500 people in the UK and indirectly supports about 35,000 jobs.
The review comes after the oil giant put its Lindsey refinery in North Lincolnshire up for sale, a process that is ongoing, and follows Murco's announcement that it is selling its UK retail network of 460 stations.