Roadside operators deny sale rumours

20 April 2006
Roadside operators deny sale rumours

RoadChef and Welcome Break have denied speculation that they're also planning to sell up following Compass's £600m disposal of its UK Moto service areas last week.

Speculation has been mounting that the roadside operators' private equity owners might follow suit after Compass cashed in £100m more than predicted on the sale of its 48-strong chain to Australian bank Macquarie.

Welcome Break chief executive Rod McKie said the group hadn't yet maximised shareholder value but left the door open to a future sale. "Investcorp [the group's Singaporean private equity owner] is not looking to get out urgently, but if the price is right it would cross their mind," he said.

But Martin Grant, chief executive of RoadChef, owned by Japanese bank Nikko Holdings, said it was too early for talk of a sale. "It was a very good price but it hasn't changed anything. People know where we are and who we're owned by but we won't shove a ‘for sale' sign up."

Rumours were also sparked after suggestions that one of the three private equity groups which failed in their bid for Moto would now turn their attention to another UK roadside chain.

City analysts said the cash-generative nature of the businesses and the fact that they operated in a closed market were added attractions.

Food service consultant Jonathan Doughty agreed that the two roadside brands were more attractive following the SSP sale. "There is a lot of private equity cash washing around at the moment that has to be spent," he said. "Not all of the juice and pips have been squeezed from RoadChef and Welcome Break yet, which also makes them attractive investments."

By Tom Bill

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