The Stobart Group is in talks with Tesco over building a 750,000 sq ft warehouse at its 3MG multi-modal gateway site in Widnes.
Tesco, an existing customer of Stobart, would service the site through its supplier Kingsland Wines and Spirits to handle drinks distribution via port, rail and road.
In October, Tesco and Kingsland, based in Salford, began transporting wine by barge from Liverpool to Manchester along the Manchester Ship Canal. The forthcoming post-Panamax (catering for ships wider than the Panama canal) container terminal at the Port of Liverpool will increase capacity dramatically and strengthen the case for transferring containers onto smaller ships and barges on the River Mersey.
3MG offers road, rail and river connections, with 6,200 container spaces and the number of trains visiting each day set to rise from six to 16 this year. The retail giant is believed to be open to either leasehold or freehold depending on the terms. The facility will be unusually expensive not least because of the number of docking options and yards it must provide. Tesco would ideally secure further land for possible expansion at a later date.
Tesco is also looking at other sites although its insistence on a three-way multi-modal facility limits the shortlist. Peel, which owns and operates the Port of Liverpool and Manchester Ship Canal, could accommodate Tesco at Irlam further upstream on the ship canal.
Stobart this week announced it has bought 47 acres at Widnes from chemical group Tessenderlo to add to the 143 acres it already owned, largely as a part of its merger with Westbury Property Fund and acquisition of O'Connor Group last year. It also owns the Port of Weston in nearby Runcorn.
In a trading statement, Stobart shrugged off fears that soaring fuel costs and an economic slowdown will put the brakes on the company's growth. The haulier said that it continued to trade strongly in the 12 months to 31 December as new business wins and profitability grew in line with expectations.
Planning permission was secured from Halton council in December for the first 1.2m sq ft of warehousing in Widnes and Stobart now plans to seek to increase that to 2.4m sq ft.
GVA Grimley is advising Stobart.
All parties declined to comment.