Gardner Merchant and Sodexho were this week putting the final touches to a deal that will create one of the world's biggest contract foodservice businesses.
In the wake of last week's press speculation, a statement was issued confirming that Sodexho planned to pay £550m and assume debts of £180m to acquire 100% of Gardner Merchant's share capital. One analyst described the total figure of £730m as "a very full price".
Although technically a takeover, both sides were keen to emphasise the British group would "trade separately and retain its identity, continuing to exist as an entity separate from Sodexho's contract catering subsidiaries".
The statement talked of the "high degree to which Gardner Merchant's activities and Sodexho's contract catering operations are complementary".
There remains, however, a question mark over countries where one or other of the two groups has a substantially bigger presence than its partner.
In the UK, for example, where Sodexho has just 20 units, logic suggests the Sodexho name will disappear.
Gardner Merchant's new board will comprise five senior Gardner executives, four from Sodexho and three external non-executive directors. Garry Hawkes will remain chief executive as well joining the French group's board as joint director-general alongside Patrice Douce.
Sodexho, listed on the Paris stock exchange since 1983, has 55,000 employees, 5,145 operating units and 1994 turnover of Ffr11.2b (£1.34b). After buying Gardner Merchant it will have 110,000 staff running 11,645 units with a combined turnover of about £2.5b.
The terms of the deal mean Forte's 24% holding in its former subsidiary is now worth £132m. Mr Hawkes and the team who led the management buy-out from Forte two years ago could be sitting on a stake worth upwards of £50m.
Next week, Caterer talks to Garry Hawkes and Sodexho chairman Pierre Bellon.