Noble House Leisure "in talks" to buy Old English Inns

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Pub entrepreneur Robert Breare is believed to be in talks to buy Old English Inns.Mr Breare, who heads Noble House Leisure, is pressing on with his...

Pub entrepreneur Robert Breare is believed to be in talks to buy Old English Inns.

Mr Breare, who heads Noble House Leisure, is pressing on with his drive to create a large managed estate after he pulled out of the bidding for Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries (W&DB) this year.

Greene King and Enterprise Inns have also been rumoured to be interested in Old English's estate of 129 managed pubs.

Old English Inns has issued two profits warnings in the past 18 months and was one of the first companies to blame the impact of foot-and-mouth disease on trading. Its pubs rely on accommodation and food for more than half their income.

Noble House made a bid for W&DB earlier this year, but it dropped out of the race after a rival bid was put in by pub group Pubmaster. Noble House would have bought 290 of W&DB's managed houses if Pubmaster's bid had been successful.

In June, Noble House bought 214 managed pubs from Scottish & Newcastle Retail for £97.1m. It also owns the Jim Thompson's bar-restaurant chain which were founded by Noble House's managing director Tony Carson.

Old English refused to reveal identity of the potential bidder but, in a statement, it said it was "in preliminary discussions which may or may not lead to an offer being made for the company".

In May Old English reported a loss of £3.24m for the year to April 1 after the effects of the petrol protests, bad weather and foot-and-mouth took hold. However, last month it told its annual meeting that it had been encouraged by better weather and the reopening of the countryside. It added that sales were up almost four per cent.

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