SSP, which operates at railway stations, motorway service stations and airports, includes c-store chain Whistlestop, Moto service stations and M&S’s Simply Food stores under franchise.
Michael Bailey, chief executive of Compass, said: “While the travel concessions market offers considerable further growth opportunities, the sale of SSP will allow management to focus solely on the core contract catering operations and the growth of its support services business.”
He said Compass would launch a formal sale by the end of the year, with proceeds used to cut debt and strengthen its balance sheet. The sale is expected to be completed in the first half of 2006.
Analysts are estimating that SSP could sell for approximately £1bn, with private equity groups the most likely bidders. Italian motorway caterer Autogrill has also been tipped as interested.