Shearings coach tour operator up for sale

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The private equity giant 3i is considering whether to sell Shearings Group, the holiday company best known for its budget coach tours around Britain, for £125m.

Deloitte, the big four accountant, has been hired by the Shearings board to conduct a strategic review, with a sale the most likely option. Deloitte could also recommend selling a small stake or even a listing on the London Stock Exchange, though the latter is considered highly unlikely.

An industry source said Deloitte had started "soft marketing" the company to potential buyers. It is understood that the board decided on a review of its options earlier this year, after a few tentative approaches for the Wigan-based Shearings.

The holiday group has benefited from the Coast & Country Hotels breaks which it launched last year. Shearings invested £7m in the brand to attract younger customers.

"The board decided to take a look at the business after lots of interest emerged because of the success in the market of Coast & Country," said a leading leisure sector adviser.

The FTSE 100 3i group bought into Shearings five years ago. In its last annual results in 2008, Shearings made a pre-tax profit of just under £1m.

In other leisure sector news, it is understood that Bay restaurant group will kick off the sales processes for the La Tasca, Ha Ha Bar & Grill chains by the first week of next month.

McQueen is finalising two separate sets of auction documents. The information on La Tasca will only be sent to groups that have already approached Bay about acquiring the chain.