National: Cash and carry giant Booker snaps up rival Makro

CASH and carry giant Booker today moved to snap up struggling rival Makro in a deal expected to add more than a million customers to its books.

Booker, which operates 172 branches and mainly supplies caterers and local shops, said the planned acquisition of German-owned Makro UK will give it a larger slice of the market for small and medium sized businesses.

Makro UK, which has been valued at �139.7million under today’s cash and shares deal, started life in 1971 in Eccles in Manchester and has 1.1 million customers. It generated sales of about �800 million in 2011.

Makro’s German parent Metro, the world’s fourth biggest retailer, will get a near-10% stake in Booker, valued at about �123.9m, under the deal.

There are 30 Makro sites in the UK but the business has under-performed for several years and made losses of �63.2m last year as it struggled amid fierce competition in the wholesale sector.

Booker’s branch network includes around a dozen branches in the East of England, at locations including Ipswich, Lowestoft, Colchester, Clacton and Chelmsford while Makro branches has three in the region, including one in Ipswich.

Today’s deal, which needs shareholder approval, marks another step in the turnaround of Booker under former M&S director Charles Wilson.

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Since taking over the company in 2005, he has returned it to profit and overseen the acquisition of smaller wholesalers Blueheath, Ritter Courivaud and Classic Drinks.

Mr Wilson said: “Through working together, Booker and Makro UK will improve choice, prices and service for retailers, caterers and SMEs throughout the UK.”

Booker has some 10,000 staff and nearly half a million customers. It owns its own retail fascia, the yellow Premier brand, which is used by some 2,500 independent retailers.

Nicola Mallard, an analyst at Investec, said: “This looks like an excellent deal for Booker.

“It has proved it can turn struggling cash and carry businesses around and with another �800 million on the top line, this will produce a stronger business with enhanced growth prospects.”