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Review of the year: top five foodservice M&As of 2016

23 December 2016 by

1. The Brookwood Partnership and ABsolutely Catering merge with CH&Co Group

Independent education caterer the Brookwood Partnership and its sister company ABsolutely Catering merged with their larger competitor CH&Co Group to become specialist education brands within the company.

The newly enlarged group now has a turnover in excess of £200m and its associated brands provide catering at more than 600 sites across the UK, employing nearly 6,000 people.

2. Elior Group acquires Waterfall Catering Group

Less than a week later news hit that Elior Group, one of the world's leading foodservice operators, had acquired Waterfall Catering Group, a UK-based contract caterer in the education, care and welfare markets.

Waterfall, which was formed in 2007 and has 803 sites in the UK, was bought through Elior's UK subsidiary. It employs 3,500 people across two brands - Caterplus (a care specialist) and Taylor Shaw (an education specialist) - and last year achieved revenues of £70m.

Philippe Salle, group chairman and chief executive of Elior, said the acquisition formed part of the group's plan to expand. The acquisition was the second for Elior Group after it bought Lexington Catering in September 2014.

3. Sodexo buys Peyton and Byrne's public contracts and procurement firm PSL

Sodexo bought Peyton and Byrne's public contracts business after the company, founded by Oliver and Siobhan Peyton, entered a pre-pack administration.

The administration was thought to have arisen after Peyton and Byrne lost its contracts at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and the British Library.

Foodservice giant Sodexo bought Peyton and Byrne's five remaining public contracts at the National Gallery, the Royal Academy of Arts, the Imperial War Museum, the ICA and the Wallace Collection. They will be operated by Sodexo Sports & Leisure, Sodexo's catering and hospitality partner for sporting venues, major events and visitor attractionsin the UK and Ireland.

Sodexo declined to reveal how much it had paid for the business. The news came hot on the heels of Sodexo's acquisition of fresh food procurement firm PSL, again for an undisclosed sum.

4. Servest acquires Catering Academy

Last month, foodservice and facilities management firm Servest acquired Catering Academy in a strategic move to grow the group's catering division.

Catering Academy is an independent contract catering company working in the education, healthcare and business and industry sectors.

Rob Legge, group chief executive UK and Europe at Servest, told The Caterer the deal was signed for a "market-related purchase price".

Servest's catering division now has a turnover of £100m and the company plans to increase the figure to £200m in the next three years with organic growth and acquisitions.

The company's acquisition of 7 Day Catering back in 2013 was said to have formed the foundation, while at the beginning of 2016 Servest also acquired Accuro Catering.

5. Livingbridge acquires ECI's stake in Rhubarb

Private equity firm Livingbridge acquired ECI Partners' stake in Rhubarb, earlier this month.

The new deal marks the first investment from Livingbridge's £660m fund, Livingbridge 6, which targets companies with enterprise values typically between £20m and £125m.

The investment is expected to help Rhubarb's continued growth across the UK and internationally with the overall aim of doubling in size in the next four years. The Caterer understands the deal values the business at an estimated £70m-£75m.

ECI invested in Rhubarb in 2012 for a minority stake to support the team in growing the business. Its exit from Rhubarb, which tripled its money, marks the company's fourth in 2016.

However, it is thought Livingbridge has acquired a majority stake, while management, who own the rest of the company have been said to reduce their holdings.

Last month, Rhubarb announced it will open an all-day restaurant in the new Centre Point development towards the end of 2017.

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