Fuller's seeks more pubs after swallowing up Gale

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The Independent Online

The brewing and pub group, Fuller, Smith & Turner, is on the hunt for further regional brewers after the smooth integration of its recent acquisition of George Gale & Co. The London Pride brewer, which posted a 5 per cent rise in pre-tax profits yesterday adjusted for new accounting standards and the effects of the purchase to £18.7m, hopes to benefit from the World Cup by installing more flat-screen television screens in its pubs.

Like-for-like sales at managed pubs were up 3.6 per cent and overall revenues 12 per cent higher at £145m.

Fuller's substantially increased the size of its 242-strong London-based pub estate when it snapped up George Gale's 111 pubs across southern England for £92m in December. Fuller's pub estate now extends up to Birmingham and Bristol. The chief executive, Michael Turner, said the quick integration of the Gale estate had whetted the group's appetite for more buys. If a sizeable business (with 20 pubs plus) came up for sale, Fuller's would venture further west, he said, but he was dismissive of the idea of expanding further north.

The company's decision to close Gale's Victorian brewery in Horndean in Hampshire, lay off 40 people and transfer the brewing operations to Fuller's main brewing site in Chiswick caused controversy. Mr Turner said he was sad to see the 159-year-old brewery go but said: "Their brewery was underinvested. We couldn't brew beer to our standards there."

Fuller's now estimates cost savings from the takeover of the family-run business to be even greater than originally estimated: £3.5m a year rather than £3m.

Mr Turner said the company managed to negotiate far better terms with Gale's lager suppliers when the old contracts ran out at the end of January and was now renegotiating the overall group deals.

"By throwing in the extra volume from Gales, we are buying cheaper for the overall Fuller's estate," he said, adding there were also synergies on the food side.