Brakes boss Frank McKay has shrugged off rumours the company is struggling, pointing to double-digit sales growth and insisting the new 98p fuel surcharge is more fair and transparent than putting up food prices.

“No-one has been immune to the impact of the credit crunch, but we have successfully combated any kind of pressure,” the group’s CEO said. “We have 1,500 lorries. Any increase in fuel prices has to be passed on honestly. Competitors have put up their prices but we have been much more transparent. It may cause customers to look at consolidating deliveries but we have seen no loss of business as a result [of the surcharge].”

Brakes was “perfectly at ease” with interest payments on its debts in the wake of its £1.4bn takeover by private equity firm Bain Capital last September, he added.

Accounts posted in July at Companies House revealed 2007 EBITDA of £128m with interest payments of £66m made in the past six months alone. But the real interest payments were lower, said a Bain spokesman, as some were owed to shareholders and could be repaid later. Others were payment-in-kind or fair-value losses from interest-rate swaps.

McKay also warned Brakes’ £20m purchase of Woodward Foodservice in June was not yet a done deal. “The OFT is looking at the transaction. It has a lot of questions and we’re answering them.” 

Woodward Foodservice lost £16m in the year to April 2008.