City veteran Kate Swann revealed today that she plans to step down from food and beverages giant SSP Group, saying that she wants to leave the Upper Crust owner with "petrol in the tank".
Investors digested the news of the former WH Smith chief executive’s departure from SSP this morning, with shares tumbling on the announcement despite the company’s rise in full-year profits and special dividend.
Swann, who said she had no current plans for future career paths and insisted her focus was on her remaining six months at the FTSE 250 firm, told City A.M.: "The opportunities are great and I’ve chosen a time to go when the business is in good shape and petrol is in the tank."
She added: "There is never a perfect time to leave but it matters to go when you know there are plenty of opportunities going forward and making sure succession is in good shape."
When asked about the falling share price, Swann replied: "Fundamentally the business is in great shape, my expectation is that [the share price] will come back quite quickly despite external factors."
Yet the prominent retail executive, who won plaudits in the City after spearheading WHSmith’s decade-long turnaround plan, warned that "the high street food and beverage industry has been challenging, as has retail, and with uncertainty around Brexit that is likely to continue".
Swann is set to be replaced by Simon Smith, currently head of SSP's UK & Ireland region.
Although the market has reacted negatively to news of Swann's departure, analysts at Shore Capital Markets have assured investors that this is due to SSP's largely stellar performance under her tenure.
The concessions operator, which runs outlets for brands such as Starbucks, M&S Simply Food and Burger King around the world, has outperformed expectations on profits every year since it listed in London in 2014. Shore upgraded its expectations on the company four times this year alone.
"Kate Swann and her team have consistently and diligently delivered against a plan that is quite focused, nay dull at times, in its detail but exciting in the amalgam," said Shore's Clive Black and Greg Johnson.
"Although we expect a negative reaction from the market today… we see many similarities with WH Smith, where the culture embedded should see the group continue to deliver further efficiencies against a backdrop of favourable structural growth opportunities in global travel."