Takeovers in the drinks industry have provided some celebratory toasts for the No Pain, No Gain portfolio. It reaped rich rewards from such deals as the swallowing of Allied Domecq and Scottish & Newcastle, as well as smaller fry – Burtonwood, Capital Pub Co, Merrydown and the soon-to-disappear Spirit Pub Co.
Now an acquisition by a member of the beerage could further enhance the portfolio. For shares in Marston's, a longstanding constituent, have reacted favourably to the purchase of the trading operations of Daniel Thwaites of Blackburn, which has a number of quality beers including Wainwright and Lancaster Bomber.
Following the deal, Marston's shares advanced 6p to 158p and there is talk that the price could go to 180p. The portfolio purchased the shares at 95p.
The takeover, which involves Marston's supplying the Blackburn brewer's 300-plus pub estate, will cost £25.1m and should generate profits of £1.5m this year.
I have sometimes wondered whether Thwaites, quoted on the fringe ISDX market and capitalised at around £73m, would make a suitable addition to the portfolio. But the shares have not performed particularly well in the past decade. The business, which dates back to 1807, also embraces some upmarket hotels; it plans a more modest brewing side.
Another deal that has improved the portfolio's strength is also in the leisure industry. The ambitious restaurant chain Fulham Shore, which moved from ISDX to AIM last year, is putting through another acquisition. It is buying the Franco Manca chain of 10 pizza restaurants for £27.5m. Like last year's absorption by Fulham Shore of the Real Greek restaurants, the satisfaction is largely in shares (at 11p) with a cash element. For the Greek deal, the shares were valued at 6p.
Fulham already has ties with Franco Manca; it is the franchisee of one of its restaurants. The pizza business expects to open another five outlets in the coming months.
Chairman David Page reports that trading at the Greek restaurants has been satisfactory. He remains on the lookout for other restaurant buys. The shares touched 23p on the deal and, as I write, are 18.75p. The portfolio invested at 9.5p.
Now to two trading statements. Booker, the cash-and-carry chain and portfolio star, reported that sales in its final quarter rose 1 per cent. The year's volume, including the Makro division, which is being reorganised, advanced 1.5 per cent to £4.75bn. Without the Makro drag, sales were up 2.3 per cent.
The group, which continues to trade well despite the supermarket price "war" , has cash of £147m and has indicated that a special dividend will again accompany the final results. Last time the extra was 3.5p a share. The shares rose on the figures but they had been under recent pressure as some analysts made cautious comments. They are 149p against a 24.5p buying price.
The other statement came from SnackTime, the vending group. Earnings and sales fell last year, although the arrival of Russian billionaire Boris Belotserkovsky has offered hope that trading will improve. Indeed chairman Jeremy Hamer points to signs of "a very positive and exciting future". But the shares did not respond; the price is 7.5p against the portfolio's disastrous 119p investment.