Speculation is rife that Bestway is planning to buy rival cash & carry operator Makro.

The two companies are rumoured to be thrashing out a deal that could create a wholesaling giant to rival Palmer & Harvey McLane and Booker, with a turnover of £2.9bn and a network of 86 depots.

Bankers have contacted wholesalers asking whether they want to get involved in the deal, a source told The Grocer. But the fact that speculation had already spread meant discussions between Bestway and Makro were almost certainly more advanced than the banks realised, he added.

Makro is owned by German company Metro Group, the world’s fourth-largest retailer. It is currently placed eighth in The Grocer’s ranking of the UK’s 30 biggest grocery wholesalers, but recorded a 5.5% decrease in sales to £1.04bn for the year to 31 December.

Earlier this month, Metro Group admitted Makro UK sales had continued to decline in the three months to 30 June and described the UK market as “challenging”.

In contrast, Bestway Cash & Carry, ranked third in The Grocer’s Big 30, reported an 8.8% increase in sales to £1.85bn and a 23.9% increase in pre-tax profit to £39.9m.

“You have to marvel at Bestway’s drive,” a leading wholesale figure said. “It would certainly be a challenge to dissect Makro from Metro and integrate it into its operation.”

Hannes Floto, UK MD for Makro, refused to comment, while a Bestway spokesman denied the rumours. “Bestway does have an active acquisition policy, but not with this company,” he claimed.

There has been a wave of consolidation in wholesale in the past year. Earlier this month Brakes bought Woodward Foodservice in a deal thought to be worth £20m. P&H bought WH & HM Young in January this year, as well as T&A Symonds last year, while Musgrave Group bought J&J Haslett and Booker snapped up Blueheath.