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Bury St Edmunds: Greene King reported to be in talks with May Capital over sale of 300 pubs

PUBLISHED: 10:50 12 March 2014 | UPDATED: 11:02 12 March 2014

The Greene King brewery in Bury St Edmunds.

The Greene King brewery in Bury St Edmunds.

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Pubs and brewing group Greene King today declined to comment on a report that it is in talks over the sale of around 300 pubs to a private equity firm.

Talks between the Bury St Edmunds-based company and May Capital, founded last year by Noah Bulkin, a former merchant banker at Merrill Lynch and Lazard, are said to have reached an advanced stage but now to be “hanging by a thread”.

The story in The Times also links May Capital with the potential purchase of around 50 pubs from R&L Properties, the pub estate of entrepreneur Robert Tchenguiz, although these talks are thought to have broken down.

According to The Times, the Greene King deal could be worth around £85million, although it adds that Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand is “known to drive a hard bargain”.

It also cautions that Greene King is thought to have held advanced talks in relation to the pubs with two other potential purchasers named as private investment firm Cerberus Capital Management, which owns Admiral Taverns, and the Pears property family without a deal being agreed.

A spokesman for Greene King said today: “As always, we don’t comment on speculation.”

At the time of its half-year results in December, Greene King owned a total of 2,226 pubs, restaurants and hotels, including 1,008 within its directly-managed retail division, which includes brands such as Hungry Horse, Old English Inns, Eating Inn and Loch Fyne, and 1,218 under tenancy, lease or franchise agreements within its Pub Partners business.

It is in the fourth year of a five-year plan to build profits by increasing its focus on food-driven pubs, under which it aims to expand its retail portfolio from 888 sites four years ago to 1,100 by 2015, while also improving the quality of the Pub Partners estate by selling sites no longer considered to have a sustainable long-term future.

During the first half, covering the 24 weeks to October 13, it acquiring 14 pubs and exchanged contracts on a further six sites for development while disposing of 59 non-core sites and transferring 11 from tenancy to retail. A further 25 Pub Partners properties were closed and awaiting dispoal at the end of the period.

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