Buyout bid for Ward's brewery

SWALLOW GROUP, the former Vaux pubs and brewing company, said yesterday that a management buyout team has emerged as a potential saviour of its Ward's brewery in Sheffield in a move that could safeguard 100 jobs.

The commercial director of Ward's, Barry Arnold, has tabled a bid of about pounds 8m for the brewery and will keep 100 of the 130 workers. As the only offer on the table, it is thought to have a "75 per cent chance of success", according to Swallow. The bid includes a three-year beer supply agreement under which the brewery will supply 3,000 barrels of its beer to local Ward's pubs in year one, falling to 1,000 barrels in year three.

However, the Vaux brewery in Sunderland appears doomed and will close on 2 July with 328 compulsory redundancies. A further 104 are taking voluntary retirement. Total redundancy costs will be in the region of pounds 12m to pounds 13m.

Swallow is continuing talks to sell its 664 tenanted pubs to Pubmaster in a pounds 125m deal. Swallow will focus on its 173 managed pubs and 37 Swallow hotels.

Yesterday the company said the Kosovo crisis had caused its forward bookings to "weaken slightly" as some foreign tourists were staying away.

Former Vaux directors Martin Grant and Neil Gossage will receive combined compensation of "not more than pounds 450,000" after they were ousted. The company reported a 10 per cent rise in first-half profits to pounds 18.3m.

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