Both of Matthew Clark's owners have reiterated their commitment to the drinks distributor, but speculation persists about the group's future.

A recent change of ownership coupled with financial difficulties at Matthew Clark's owners, Constellation Wines Australia & Europe and Punch Taverns, have fuelled speculation that one, or both, of the companies might seek to sell their 50% stake in the drinks distributor.

However, this week, Punch Taverns said that it intends to retain to its 50% stake in Matthew Clark, despite unveiling a plan to sell off half of its leased pub estate in an effort to cut debt and climb out of the red.

A day earlier, executives at Constellation, which owns the other half of Matthew Clark and was recently acquired by Champ Private Equity, also reiterated the firm's commitment to the on-trade drinks distributor. Constellation's commercial general manager for Europe, James Lousada, said: "We remain committed to that ownership, it's a fantastic route to the on-trade for us."

Speculation about Matthew Clark has swirled for several months. In January, Punch Taverns declined to comment on a report that WaverleyTBS' owners', Manfield Partners, had approached it about a possible acquisition of the firm's 50% stake in Matthew Clark.

Earlier this month, one broker with knowledge of the sector told just-drinks that Matthew Clark "looks like it's going to WaverleyTBS".

When contacted by just-drinks yesterday (24 March), WaverleyTBS' MD, Jonathan Townsend, declined to comment specifically on Matthew Clark, but he indicated that the firm is on the lookout for acquisitions.

"Like many other businesses, we have discussions all the time with various industry contacts," he said. "We are always going to be exploring opportunities to develop our business but unless we have something concrete to say we won’t be commenting on speculation or rumour.

"WaverleyTBS strongly values its people and any announcement would be made to them in the first instance."