Brewers ready to float

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The Independent Online
A BARREL of regional brewers and drinks companies are planning to float their shares on the London stock market in the next six months or so.

All have been born or revived as a result of the Department of Trade and Industry's Beer Orders, which forced all but the smallest companies in the beer business to split their brewing and public house operations.

Ushers of Trowbridge, the Wiltshire-based regional brewery and pubs chain, is planning to join the stock market in time for Christmas. Also lining up for a possible float are Enterprise Inns, Century Inns and Tom Cobleigh, the pub chains, and Gaymer, the Babycham drinks business.

Ushers, set up by Thomas Usher in 1824, was sold by Courage to a management buy- in team for pounds 75m three years ago. The company is likely to be valued between pounds 100m and pounds 120m on the stock market. The issue is being sponsored by NatWest Securities.

Ushers' taxable profits have grown from about pounds 900,000 in 1992 to pounds 7.8m for the year ending October 1994, on a 10 per cent rise in turnover to pounds 48m. This year's results are expected a show a further improvement. Long-term borrowings eased from pounds 41m to pounds 35m over the same period.

The group owns a brewery with an annual production capacity of more than 500,000 barrels and a chain of about 480 pubs, mostly tenanted, stretching from Hampshire to Cornwall, including South Wales and the Isle of Wight. It is thought to be coming to the market partly to reduce its debts and facilitate further expansion.

The flotation coincides with the imminent launch of an investment trust by Lazard to invest specifically in regional brewers.

The merchant bank hopes to raise at least pounds 50m through a issue of shares at 100p each. The trust, which will have a 10- year life, will also offer subscribers a free warrant with every five shares.

Quentin Lumsden, page 12

(Photograph omitted)