Amber estate grows to 69

By John Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Amber Taverns, the northern England-based pub operator, has brought its estate to 69 sites with the purchase of three ex-pubco pubs for £505,000.

Amber Taverns, the northern England-based operator of wet-led freehold pubs, has brought its estate to 69 sites with the purchase of three ex-pubco pubs for £505,000.

Joint managing director James Baer also revealed that the company is "actively pursuing" sites in the Midlands, and could eventually buy pubs in the south, as it eyes expansion outside its heartland. Amber, which is backed by private equity firm LGV Capital, plans to operate 100 outlets by 2014.

The three new pubs, all acquired this summer and expected to open in September, will receive investments worth more than the purchase prices.

Amber specialises in reviving under-performing community pubs through large capex spends.

The sites include a former R&L Properties pub, the Wellington in Southport, Merseyside — part of Robert Tchenguiz's pub empire until the company was placed into administration in January.

The Wellington was bought for £225,000 and Amber plans a £240,000 refurbishment.

The other two were bought from Enterprise Inns: the Stop & Rest in Stalybridge, Greater Manchester, cost £105,000, with plans for a £350,000 refurbishment, and the New County in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, bought for £175,000, is set for a £230,000 revamp.

Baer said: "There are a lot of opportunities for pubs that are sensibly priced."

Terms have also been agreed for a further three unidentified pubs, one of which will become the company's most southerly site, in Wolverhampton. The other two are in Middlesborough and Scunthorpe.

On future acquisitions, Baer said: "We are actively pursuing opportunities in the Midlands and we hope to have a site there before the end of the year."

He suggested that acquisitions in parts of southern England could be a future strategy.

"This is not imminent in any way, but we could argue that the model could work in the Medway towns [in Kent]," Baer said.

"We are not going to rush into it. LGV is very clear that there's no point in just buying pubs — it's not a numbers game."

Amber's like-for-like sales are up 3% for the first 23 weeks of the current financial year (from the first week in February), Baer said, adding that this was a good result as against a World Cup year in 2010.

Current sales average £7,250 per site per week, with per-site EBITDA at £100,000.

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