Travis Perkins is ramping up plans to sell its Wickes DIY business and could offload the chain by the middle of next year.

The builders’ merchant, which also owns Toolstation, has started separating Wickes’ IT systems from those used across the rest of the group as it prepares to offload the struggling business, according to The Sunday Times.

The project, being led by Travis Perkins finance chief Alan Williams, could help flush out potential buyers for Wickes.

The potential sale of the business could raise between £400m and £500m.

Last week, Travis Perkins drafted in former Tesco executive David Wood to replace Simon King as Wickes boss.

Operating profits at the retailer have fallen by almost a third to £69m over the past two years.

Travis Perkins revealed last November that it was reviewing the Wickes business in a bid to “maximise the value” from the chain.

Adjusted profit within Travis Perkins’ consumer division, which also includes Tile Giant, fell 15.9% to £69m in the year to December 31, 2018. Wickes’ adjusted operating profit slumped 19% during the same 12-month period.

In May, however, Wickes hailed “encouraging” first-quarter sales, driven by what it called a “strong turnaround” in its kitchen and bathroom categories.

Like-for-like sales jumped 10% during the 13 weeks to March 30, a marked improvement on the 7.9% slump during the same period the previous year. Total sales advanced 9.4% in the quarter.

Wickes said performance across its core DIY business and the kitchen and bathroom categories was bolstered by “continued improvement” in execution and the “competitor decisions to exit the design and install service” in the second half of 2018.

But Travis Perkins said sales growth was partially offset by the timing of Easter, which fell outside of its first quarter this year.