SSP, “The Food Travel Experts” and one of the leading operators of food and beverage brands in travel locations worldwide, is preparing for its market debut. Kate Swann, who made her mark on the business world during a ten-year tenure as the head of W.H. Smith, was appointed to the CEO position at SSP in July 2013. While at W.H. Smith, Swann was able to turn a struggling company into one that brought in over £100m annually at the time of her departure.
The Surrey-based SSP has 400 locations globally, provides jobs for about 30,000 people, and owns retail brands like Caffe Ritazza and Upper Crust, while at the same time operating travel stores for many major retailers, including Starbucks, Marks & Spencer Simply Food, and more. SSP itself is owned by private equity group EQT.
“I am delighted to be joining SSP and look forward to working with the team as we continue to grow the business and deliver for our customers,” Swann said just after announcing her move to SSP.
Under Swann’s leadership, SSP is now looking to gain a public listing in London. To accomplish that end, the company has hired Lazard, a global financial investment and advisory firm.
“Lazard is in the two best businesses in the financial services industry: asset management and financial advisory,” said Lazard CEO Kenneth Jacobs in an article for Financial Times. The fact that they are one of the top financial advisory firms makes them an ideal candidate to advise on SSP’s IPO.
According to the Telegraph, this move from private to public company is happening with increasing frequency in the UK, and more than 100 new listings are expected this year—with 20 of the IPOs from industry bankers like Warburg Pincus.
“Advisory firms such as Lazard, Cannaccord Genuity, Moelis and STJ have enjoyed a revival in their equity practices as company flotations have roared back to life,” the Telegraph reports.
Although both companies declined to comment on the matter, initial estimates of the IPO could value Café Ritazza and Upper Crust, two of SSP’s owned brands, at £2bn.