Issa brother ‘eyes sale’ of Asda stake to focus on petrol station business

The ownership team behind the indebted supermarket Asda could be about to change again after one of the billionaire Issa brothers was reported to be exploring the sale of his stake in the business.

Zuber Issa, 51, owns 22.5% of the grocer after a £6.8bn takeover alongside his older brother Mohsin and the private equity firm TDR Capital three years ago.

He is said to be in discussions to sell his shares and instead focus on the pair’s petrol forecourt business EG Group, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

Any attempts to sell his Asda shareholding are thought to be complicated by supposed lock-in agreements with Mohsin and TDR that would need all parties to agree to any deal.

Zuber founded EG in 2001, bringing his brother onboard some years later, and the pair expanded the business to about 6,000 forecourts across 10 countries.

Their success has seen them become business heroes in their home town of Blackburn, where they have emulated the former Blackburn Rovers and England striker Alan Shearer by having a road named after them.

However, the brothers have also attracted controversy, including for their construction of five identical hilltop mansions, “with spectacular countryside views over Bowland Fells”, which have been called the “Five Ugly Sisters” by local people.

The reported move towards the Asda share sale has also emerged at what appears to be a tricky moment in the brothers’ relationship.

The breakdown of Mohsin’s marriage is said to have “sent shockwaves” through the family, while the brothers have failed to bat away questions about the financing of their empire, having built a reputation as masters of debt-fuelled deals at EG.

The Issas put just £100m of cash into the initial Asda deal, matched by £100m more from TDR Capital, with the remainder of the buyout funded with the largest sterling corporate bond sale on record, according to Bloomberg, as well as a loan from the parent company of EG Group.

In October, in a move that appeared to blur the lines between the businesses even further, Asda announced it had acquired EG Group’s UK business for £2bn.

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The supermarket group’s chair, Stuart Rose, said the acquisition would create a “powerful consumer champion” that was committed to being a “price leader” on fuel and the lowest price of the UK’s big four supermarkets on groceries.

However, the deal was funded by an additional £770m of loans and £450m in new funds from the Issa brothers and their private-equity partner, TDR Capital.

The Issa brothers were contacted by the Guardian but have not commented.