For sale: Itochu to divest French subsidiary Speedy
Only a few months after Japanese trading concern Itochu Corporation acquired UK fast-fit giant Kwik-Fit, the British company’s French subsidiary Speedy is, according to French media reports, up for sale. The resale of the Speedy fast-fit chain admittedly doesn’t come as a complete surprise, as from the outset Itochu expressed its main interest as being in the UK and Dutch markets.
The Japanese company has been present in the UK since 1993 through its ownership of Stapleton’s, who holds an estimated 15 per cent sell-in market share nationwide. Now, with its close to 700 Kwik-Fit outlets in Britain, since the start of the year Itochu has gained a further 15 or so per cent of the market. Itochu is also firmly anchored in the Netherlands through the 180 Kwik-Fit centres it owns there, yet despite its recently-acquired 500 outlets in France Itochu lacks a firm foothold in the French tyre market, as Speedy specialises more in workshop repairs than tyres. French newspaper “Le Figaro” writes that Itochu was granted a mandate to sell Speedy in France in August. Parties interested in acquiring the chain have already emerged, the newspaper added.
Named contenders in a potential Speedy acquisition are current company president Jacques Le Foll, his predecessor Giles Chauveau, backed by investment fund Butler Capital, plus automotive centre operator Feu Vert, who previously had its eye on Speedy some four years ago. Feu Vert is a French workshop and automotive specialty shop chain that operates more than 400 outlets, around three-quarters of which are located in France.
Itochu Corporation acquired Kwik-Fit from PAI Partners last May for £637 million. Its other European assets include German tyre wholesaler Reifen Grundlach, which it purchased in 1998. The German fast-fit chain Pit-Stop, which previously belonged to Kwik-Fit, is not included in Itochu’s European portfolio; it was sold to German financial investor BluO in May 2009 and sold again to German workshop trade and service business PV Automotive a year later.