The Euro Garages petrol station business founded 22 years ago with a single site in Bury has become the largest independent fuel retailer in the EU, with annual sales of €6bn (£5.1bn). Euro Garages, which is majority-owned by Blackburn’s Issa brothers, Zuber, 44, and Mohsin, 45, merged with European Forecourt Retail Group last October, forming a company with 1,467 sites mainly in the UK, France and the Benelux countries. The Issas own the majority of the enlarged operation, with the rest belonging to the TDR Capital private equity group.
The sons of Gujarati immigrants who came to Blackburn in the 1960s, the brothers grew up in a typical two-up, two-down semi-detached house. Zuber always wanted to start his own business, although modestly admits to never “dreaming it would get to the scale that it is today”. Their father had run a petrol station in the 1980s but Zuber thought he could go one better. “I thought if we could go in and redevelop the site, put in a convenience store, instead of the bog-standard kiosk that always charged too much for tobacco and confectionery, we could take it to the next level.”
The brothers bought a run-down garage in 1995 and with £150,000 from savings and help from the family, put in a grocery store and newsagent. “The location was great. It was on a busy road, didn’t have much competition and had a lot of built-up housing estates around it.” The garage “didn’t exactly light the blue touch paper early on”, Zuber says, but by the end of the year it was making an annual profit of £50,000 on a £2.5m turnover. Within 18 months they opened a second outlet, in Preston, and by 2001 their firm Euro Garages had three garages generating an annual turnover of £6m.
By teaming up with brands such as Starbucks, Burger King, Subway and Greggs, they began to offer customers the option of filling their appetite as well as their tank, often without leaving their car. The chain's first KFC drive-through concession opened in March in Preston. Profits soared to £34.7m on £815.6m sales in 2014-15. Before the recent European deal, the Issas had already sold a stake in Euro Garages worth about £700m and the recent continental expansion takes them to £1bn.
High-octane rise of brothers’ firm shows family value