Baugur's sale of its 31.4% stake in C&C giant Booker this week, to focus on retail, has fuelled speculation it is also about to sell wholesaler Woodward Foodservice, with Brakes Group emerging as the likely buyer.
One leading wholesale figure told The Grocer that Brakes could pick up Woodward for a knockdown price without taking on Woodward's debt. Another wholesale chief said he expected a deal to be wrapped up in a matter of weeks.
Woodward has been struggling since buying DBC Foodservice in 2006.
It made a loss of £32.8m for the year to March 2007, but chief executive Andrew Ramsden told The Grocer in February he was confident of turning the business around.
Neither Woodward nor Brakes would comment.
However, a sale would tie in with Baugur's stated intention to focus on its high street interests such as Mosaic Fashions and House of Fraser (see panel).
The Icelandic investment group, which owned the stake through its investment vehicle Milton, said it was "the right time" to sell its s hare in Booker to allow it to focus on its retail investments.
"Given the exceptional turnaround implemented by Charles Wilson and his team at Booker over the past three years, and the fact that Booker has now successfully made the transition back to the public markets, now is the right time for us to exit," said Gunnar Sigurdsson, chief executive of Baugur.
The sale, which has reportedly earned Baugur £100m, follows a period of change . In April it sold its media, technology and financial investments to position itself as a pure retail investor.
Icelandic bank Kaupthing also sold its 6.2% stake in Booker, but its investment fund Kaupthing Capital Partners acquired a 22% stake.
West Coast Capital and HBOS reduced their stakes to make way for institutional demand, up from 23.7% to 43.7%.
Booker CEO Charles Wilson also increased his stake from 8.1% to 8.3%.