Brake Bros, the family-controlled food catering supply business, has put itself up for sale in a move expected to value the group at more than £350m. Brake Bros said the decision had been prompted by the forthcoming retirement of Frank Brake, chairman, who is 68.
Mr Brake founded the company with his two brothers in 1958 and the family still controls 58 per cent of the shares, worth £200m. Compass, the contract catering business, and Ahold, the Dutch supermarket group, have been tipped as possible buyers. The shares soared 15 per cent to 680.5p, valuing the company at £350m, though analysts said it could fetch 700p to 800p a share.
Mr Brake said: "It's been a long time but after 40-odd years there comes a time when you have to think about the future. I'll miss a lot of things but I'll have more time now to play tennis, golf and I'm going back to skiing again. And I've got five grandchildren."
The sons of a pub caterer, Mr Brake and his brothers established Brake Bros to supply frozen poultry to caterers after they had left hotel and catering college. The business floated in 1986 and expanded via a string of acquisitions and now includes brand names such as Larderfresh, Puritan Maid, Watson & Philip Foodservice and M&J Seafoods. It now has sales of £1.3bn and yesterday reported pre-tax profits of £40m, up 2.6 per cent on the previous year if exceptional items are excluded.
Brake Bros has appointed Credit Suisse First Boston to help with the strategic review which could take several months.
The group suffered a sharp drop in business after 11 September. But Ian Player, chief executive, said November and December had been strong with trade in line with expectations during January and February.