Tim Clarke, the man set to lead an independent SixC Retail, forecast yesterday that the new company would become the industry's "natural consolidator".

He told M&C Report Online News that the company would be looking for growth opportunities once the split from the SixC hotels business was complete, expected to be by April next year. That could involve acquisition "if the right opportunity came along", he said.

The initial focus would be on the UK market, but Clarke, who will be chief executive of the as-yet unnamed company, added that he would be disappointed if in the long-term the new group did not develop a "substantial" international business.

The demerged group would be the biggest player in the domestic market and the only large unit chain focusing purely on the restaurant and pub sector, he said.

Initial growth would be organic. Clarke pointed to the 500 former Allied Domecq sites that the company still had in the pipeline for brand conversions. The main emphasis would be on developing its big suburban brands such as Harvester and Ember Inns. He said the company would be avoiding new forays into the high street restaurant market, which he said had huge over capacity problems.

The lodge market, on the other hand, was "very exciting". Clarke intimated an accelerated roll-out of the company's own Innkeepers Lodge operation, and confirmed that the franchise deal with SixC Hotels Express by Holiday Inn brand would continue.

He was more cautious about international expansion, at least in the short-term. Germany, where the group owns the Alex café bar brand, was experiencing "testing conditions", he said.

The new-look company would have an asset value of £3.25bn, and he expected it to be at least "knocking on the door" of the FTSE 100.