CTN and c-store chain Martin McColl has denied City reports it is up for sale - but has admitted it is looking at refinancing less than three years after completing an HBOS-backed management buyout.
Rumours surfaced this week that agents acting for Martin McColl were pitching the company to potential trade buyers.
But Martin McColl MD Steve Wilkinson told The Grocer the chain was speaking to a number of banks with a view to attracting new investment. "We are serial refinancers," said Wilkinson. "We did it three years ago and will probably be looking to do it again in another three years."
The retail chain had just paid off a large chunk of debt and the current management team wanted to remain in charge for the foreseeable future, he said.
Pre-tax profits at the company, which is 80%-owned by its management and 20% by HBOS, rose 183% to £15m for the year to November 2007 on sales up 8.8% to £740m, Wilkinson said. Its performance was helped by 15% like-for-like growth in alcohol sales while food sales were up 12%.
Sales of chilled goods had grown after the roll-out of 8-metre chillers into stores, while sales of ambient lines had risen after more space was devoted to them while the company was now also much sharper on promotional activity.
Far from selling up, Martin McColl was still keen to grow through acquisitions, following the addition of the 92-strong Smile c-store business in September, said Wilkinson.
All the Smile Stores had now been rebranded as McColl's and fitted with new Epos within four months of the deal's completion. Staff had all been retrained and the stores were trading well, he said.
However, he was unable to give any firm predictions on the future of a tie-up with Somerfield. Martin McColl has been selling a range of the supermarket chain's own label chilled lines in about 80 stores.
The range was selling well, said Wilkinson, but he could not comment on whether the arrangement would continue with Somerfield's new owner if, as rumoured, the chain is sold.