Woolworths has widened its search for brokers to sell its petrol business via a proposed $2 billion-odd float.

Street Talk understands the Woolworths camp wrote to retail brokers last Friday, seeking firms willing to help sell the float to retail investors.

Retail brokers were offered “co-lead manager” status in return for a helping hand, as well as a commission which would likely be split between the firm and its broker sales force.

Woolworths is expected to appoint a couple of co-lead managers. It already has investment banks Morgan Stanley and UBS on board to help structure the deal and sell it to institutional investors, and each firm is also likely to bring its retail broker affiliate. In Morgan Stanley’s case, that means calling in retail arm Morgan Stanley Wealth Management which has $26 billion invested on behalf of clients.

It comes as Woolworths’ team decides whether to push ahead with an initial public offering and listing for the petrol business, which recorded $168 million EBIT last financial year, or seek to sign a deal with a trade buyer.

It has been down the trade route before and failed, although a few new faces have popped up recently as Street Talk reported last week. The fresh faces have given pause for thought.

Retail heavyweights Morgans and Bell Potter are expected to pitch for the vacant co-lead manager role. The pair also worked on the $2.6 billion raising for another fuel debutant, Viva Energy, in July, as part of a big syndicate that also included Craigs, Crestone, Evans & Partners, JBWere, NAB, Ord Minnett and Wilsons.

The performance of Viva Energy since listing does linger over Woolworths’ unit. Viva shares hit the ASX at $2.50 each on July 13, but closed at $2.24 on Tuesday.

Extracted from AFR