Family owned catering firm sold in deal worth £450m

Andrew Nisbet

One of the largest privately owned companies in the South West has been sold in a deal worth £450m.

Bristol catering supplies company Nisbets has been acquired by distribution giant Bunzl.

There have been rumours about a potential sale for several months and the deal was confirmed on the stock market this morning.

The sale has been on the cards since last January after Nisbets instructed Goldman Sachs to raise money to fund further growth.

Talks have been taking place between Andrew Nisbet and Bunzl  for a number of months.

The deal values the business at £500m and Nisbet has sold 80 per cent of the business to Bunzl.

A spokesperson for Key West Holdings, which owns the business interests of the Nisbet family, said: “Key West Holdings has sold a majority stake in Nisbets to Bunzl plc at an equity value in excess of £500 million. The deal is subject to customary regulatory approval.

“Bunzl is a leading British multinational distributor and shares Key West Holdings’ passion for the food-service industry.

“Key West Holdings has been the majority owner of Nisbets for many years and, in that time, Nisbets has grown it into one of the largest multinational distributors of foodservice equipment and supplies in the UK & Ireland, Northern Europe, and Australasia.

“Key West Holdings now looks forward to supporting Nisbets as a minority investor as it enters its next phase of growth.”

The company has over 1,800 employees and an experienced management team that will remain with the business.

Bunzl chief executive Frank van Zanten said: “The acquisition of Nisbets is an exciting step for Bunzl.

“Andrew Nisbet has built a high-quality business, with a well-respected management team.

“The business is complementary to our operations in the catering equipment sector and will enhance our own brand offering and digital capabilities. Pamark is our first acquisition in Finland and provides us with a strong platform from which to grow our presence across multiple end market segments in the country, supporting further expansion of our footprint in the Nordic region.

“This is an excellent start to 2024, maintaining the strong acquisition momentum of recent years. Our pipeline remains active, supported by the strength of our balance sheet.”

Bunzl is no stranger to acquisitions but this is believed to be one of the largest to date.

Andrew Nisbet set up the business in 1983, selling kitchen equipment and cook books to students from his car boot before creating the industry’s largest direct mail order supplier.

Today it sells more than 31,000 products, mainly online, to catering and restaurant customers, and imports vast quantities of equipment that it sells under own-label brands such as Buffalo and Polar.

The UK remains its largest market but it operates subsidiaries in Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Nisbets did launch a US venture several years back but later pulled the plug on it.

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