S&N pub sale attracts 'large number' of suitors

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The Independent Online

Scottish & Newcastle, Britain's biggest brewer, said yesterday it had received a "large number" of approaches to buy the 920 managed pubs it put up for sale last month.

Scottish & Newcastle, Britain's biggest brewer, said yesterday it had received a "large number" of approaches to buy the 920 managed pubs it put up for sale last month.

In a trading statement covering the crucial Christmas and new year period, S&N said discussions were already under way with potential buyers about the outright sale of 740 underperforming units. The remaining 180 outlets earmarked for disposal will be transferred to tenancy so that S&N can continue to operate the businesses but divest the property interests to a financial institution.

The total book value of the outgoing pubs is £566m, but analysts expect them to be sold for closer to £500m. Royal Bank of Scotland is expected to snap up the property assets of the new tenancies, while financial groups, such as Nomura and Punch Group, are seen as frontrunners to swallow the managed pubs. S&N will retain 1,450 managed and tenanted houses following the sell-off.

In the five weeks to 31 December, the group said trading across its pubs and beer portfolio was "in line with expectations". Beer volumes at Scottish Courage, the company's brewing division, were up 1.6 per cent. Total sales for the pub estate grew by 4.8 per cent in the period, with like-for-like turnover up 0.4 per cent on an uninvested basis. S&N did not split out the performance of the businesses that are to be sold.

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