Pub group in further talks

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The Independent Online
INN BUSINESS, the tenanted pub group, said yesterday that it had received other "opportunistic" takeover approaches following the overture from Enterprise Inns last month.

However, Alan Jackson, Inn Business' chief executive, said none of the talks had led to a firm offer and that he had not heard from Enterprise since the original announcement on 26 January. "The [Enterprise] approach has not led to an offer. The ball is in their court," Mr Jackson said, adding: "The board want the business to remain an independent company."

He was speaking as Inn Business reported a 20 per cent rise in full-year profits to pounds 7.6m and a statement which some analysts said read like a defence document.

The group has revalued its pub estate, adding an extra pounds 13.5m to net asset value. This has increased the net asset value per share by 49 per cent to 70p, compared to yesterday's closing share price of 60p. The group also increased the final dividend by 48 per cent, taking the total payout to 2.5p.

Inn Business yesterday announced a further expansion with the pounds 5.8m acquisition of Trent Taverns which operates 82 tenanted pubs mainly in the south and west of England. This follows the deal announced last month to buy a 22.5 per cent stake in Scorpio Inns which owns 111 tenanted pubs in the west of England and in South Wales. The deals take the group's pub estate to almost 700 pubs. The aim is to reach 1,000 pubs in the next few years.

The group admitted that like for like beer volumes were down in current trading but said margins and rental income were both higher.

The number of Hooden Horse managed outlets has been increased from 9 to 20 with the plan to reach 30 by the end of next year. The group said the pubs' spicy-food offering was proving popular, with weekly takings averaging pounds 4,750.