pounds 50m pubs spree

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Enterprise Inns is set to snap up a batch of pubs in the south- east of England from Pubmaster as part of an aggressive pounds 50m acquisition campaign over the next few months.

The company also hopes to buy another as yet unidentified small pub group, according to sources in the brewing industry. The moves follow last week's purchase of Discovery Inns for pounds 46m in cash and a three-for-eight rights issue that raised pounds 33m.

Enterprise is thought to be aiming at taking on between 200 and 250 of Pubmaster's mostly tenanted pubs in the South-east, a region in which Enterprise has little presence at the moment, for about pounds 25m.

Pubmaster meanwhile is keen to free up some cash to develop the remainder of its 1,600 pub estate, which was bought out of Brent Walker in a pounds 171m deal led by John Brackenbury and Nat-west Ventures last November.

Enterprise's finance director, David George, refused to confirm the company's interest in Pubmaster but said: "We are always keen to buy good quality pubs. We will have lots to look at over the next 12 months."

He said any possible deal "would be weeks or months away".