Eat takes its third bite at the market as it is put up for sale

SANDWICH shop chain Eat has been put on the market for the third time by its owners.

The company, which has 100 stores and is planning to double that in the next two to four years, is expected to fetch more than £100m as interest from private equity groups mounts.

The firm is being advised by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and financial brochures were sent out last week to more than a dozen buy-out houses.

Eat was founded in 1996 by former hedge fund manager Niall MacArthur and his wife Faith and has continued to increase its profits throughout the latest recession.

Following the lead of rival Pret a Manger, which sold for £350m to Bridgepoint two years ago, Eat was also put on the market. But the timing was wrong, with markets weak after the Lehman Brothers collapse.

A second bidding round came earlier this year, although potential buyer Waitrose pulled out of the deal after three months.

In the latest sales round, MacArthur has signalled he will retain his 50 per cent stake, while his private equity partner Penta Capital is looking to sell all of its stake.