Belhaven float to fund pubs expansion

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Belhaven, Scotland's largest regional brewer, is planning to come to the market later this summer, ending 25 years of almost constant ownership changes.

A planned pounds 35m float provides a partial exit for venture capitalists who backed a pounds 23.5m management buyout in 1993 from the company's last ill-fated owner, Ascot Holdings, the former Control Securities.

Most of the pounds 18m raised in the flotation will be used to repay debts and set the balance sheet up for a proposed expansion of the company's managed pub estate.

Belhaven started brewing on the site of its current brewery in Dunbar in 1719. It was a local operator until 1972 when it was acquired by CCH Investments, which later changed its name to City Centre Restaurants and now owns restaurant chains including Garfunkels.

During the 1980s Control Securities, led by Ugandan Asian businessman Nasmu Virani, acquired the brewery not once but twice. In between, Raymond Miquel, the former head of whisky group Bell's, tried his hand at running the company.

Belhaven remained profitable even through Control Securities difficulties - it was badly hit by the collapse of the Bank of Credit & Commerce International - and the ultimate jailing of Mr Virani for two and a half years for his part in the bank's failure.

In the year to March 1993, just before the buyout, profits of pounds 2.6m were struck from sales of pounds 24m. Latest reported figures showed a pounds 4.2m profit from sales of pounds 29.6m.

Belhaven is an integrated business with a brewery, drinks distribution operation and more than 60 pubs. It brews a portfolio of its own branded beers, which it sells together with third party beers, in particular from Bass, to its estate of eight managed and 56 tenanted pubs.

As well as its cask conditioned ales, Belhaven has identified the keg ale sector as an area of potential growth. It also has a range of premium bottled beers and does contract bottling and brewing for other brewers.

Scotland is predominantly a free-trade market and Belhaven has increased volumes in that market by 24 per cent in the past three years.

Six of its managed pubs have recently been restyled and upgraded using Scottish themes.