SSP aims for £500m float despite appetite for listings waning

The owner of Upper Crust and Caffe Ritazza said it plans to raise £500m through a stock market float.

Kate Swann
Kate Swann

SSP runs just under 2,000 food outlets in airports and train stations in 29 countries and employs 30,000 staff.

The business, which is expected to be valued at between £1.6bn and £2bn in the flotation, is led by chief executive Kate Swann, who oversaw the revival of high street newsagent WH Smith during her decade in charge.

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The flotation comes at a time of waning investor appetite on the London market, which has seen fashion retailer Fat Face and Hungarian budget airline Wizz Air scrap their initial public offerings in the last month.

The London-based business, which is owned by Swedish private equity group EQT, also runs a number of concessions for major firms such as Starbucks, Marks & Spencer and Burger King.

Ms Swann said: “An initial public offering is the appropriate next step for a business of SSP’s calibre, size and international scale and we believe that we are well-placed for life as a listed company.”

She added: “There is always volatility and I think investors can see through that to what is fundamentally a strong business. If you have a strong business you don’t have to worry about that. We’re in big, attractive markets.”

SSP said it will use the cash to reduce part of its existing debt while refinancing other parts of its debt pile.

The firm said the flotation will also give EQT, senior management and other shareholders the “opportunity for a partial realisation of their investment in SSP.”

However, SSP said these shareholders would agree to hold on to their shares for an unspecified period of time after the flotation.

The company plans to expand by winning more airport and train station contracts, and has targeted the US, Asia Pacific and Middle Eastern markets for growth.

In the year to September 30 last year SSP posted underlying earnings of £152.7m on sales of £1.8bn.

The announcement by SSP follows the listing of Europe’s third-largest catering group, Elior, which returned to the Paris stock market this month after an eight-year absence.

Potential investors in SSP will be hoping Ms Swann can repeat her performance at Smiths where she cut costs, boosted profit margins and expanded into the travel market.