All 7,560 Punch licensees invited to buy pubs

By Andrew Pring

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Licensees, Marketing, Roger whiteside

Punch: offer to sell freeholds
Punch: offer to sell freeholds
In a dramatic extension of its sell-off programme, Punch is inviting any of its 7,560 licensees to make an offer for the pub they currently run. The...

In a dramatic extension of its sell-off programme, Punch is inviting any of its 7,560 licensees to make an offer for the pub they currently run.

The company cautions that it will not necessarily end up selling any more than the 500 it is currently offering to sitting licensees. But it says it is keen to learn how much interest there is in buying the freeholds across its entire estate.

New managing director Roger Whiteside told the Morning Advertiser​: "When we put the first 500 up for sale recently, we were surprised to receive calls from 400 other Punch licensees who also wished to buy their freehold. So in the interests of getting shareholder value, we thought we would try to get a feel for how many others might also be interested.

"We hope we don't get lots of cynical time-wasters because we are genuinely interested in selling pubs to our licensees at the right price. Our presumption is that the vast bulk of our estate will still remain with us, but we feel with finance costs so low, there is a window of opportunity now for some of our licensees to obtain a freehold."

Whiteside also told MA that Punch will be pegging drinks price rises to a uniform 4% across its range. "We thought long and hard about ways to handle the suppliers' price rises, and in the end we decided not to favour some brands over others. We think this way is fairer."

Punch is deferring the rises until the end of March. "We can afford to push the rises back until then, but no further," said Whiteside.

And in a further move to help licensees, Whiteside said Retail Price Index-linked rents will reflect the negative RPI figure, which the Government is expected to announce shortly. "In the spirit of fairness, we're going to pass on the negative RPI to our licensees."

Punch declined to say how much its rental income might fall. But a rough calculation suggests on average licensees will be paying around £7 per week less.

Whiteside said he is very keen to help licensees. "Our business is nothing unless we have winning licensees.

"But not every pub has a future with us nor is the operator in every pub the right operator."

Whiteside, who has worked for a week at a pub in Derby before he started and has now visited 40 Punch pubs, said he is keen to investigate the situation of licensees who have grievances against Punch. "I want to hear their cases. There are always two sides to every story.

"We want to help where we can but we are not Oxfam."

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