Barracuda Pub Company, the managed pub operator led by Mark McQuater is seeking up to £200m of private equity backing to help it expand its c.200-strong pub estate. According to The Times, the company, which operates the Smith & Jones and Varsity brands, is seeking new investment to enable its to fund a £50m development programme over the next two to three years that will include the opening of another 40 pubs. The report also suggests that Barracuda will examine consolidation opportunities as larger rivals offload non-core pubs, but has also not ruled out a sale to an industry rival, with the TDR-backed Stonegate Pub Company a possible suitor. It is thought to have appointed specialist advisor McQueen to handle the search for new backers. Speaking at M&C Report’s UK Pub Retail Summit last week, McQuater confirmed that company would be concentrating on two core brands going forward – Smith & Jones and the student friendly Varsity. It plans to rebrand all its 161 Smith & Jones outlets in a bid to make the brand as well recognised as any other in the sector. The rebrand forms part of a £16m spend on the brand across two years, which has seen the gradual conversion of other Barracuda sites to Smith & Jones. The aim is to eventually convert another 30 or-so outlets under the Barracuda Bar and Cape formats to Smith & Jones, leaving around 20 Varsities, its student-focused brand. McQuater said that that the updated Smith & Jones concept was a “seven-day trading model, making money from 9am”. It has upgraded all its menus, changed supplier to improve buying terms and margins and introduced Costa Coffee.