Fuller’s targets 1,000 bedrooms across pub estate

By Stuart Stone contact

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New structure: Fuller’s Simon Emeny says the Asahi deal has been structured to have minimal impact on its pub operators
New structure: Fuller’s Simon Emeny says the Asahi deal has been structured to have minimal impact on its pub operators
After the £250m disposal of Fuller’s brewing and drinks business, chief executive Simon Emeny discussed the knock-on effects of the deal on the company’s pub estate.

As reported by The Morning Advertiser​, Fuller’s beer and cider brands officially joined Asahi UK’s portfolio​ on 29 April, a day after the £250m deal – agreed in January​ – was finalised.

Speaking to The Morning Advertiser​ after the deal’s completion, chief executive Simon Emeny explained that, as of 29 April, the company would begin work “under a new structure with an exciting future ahead as a pub company”.

In late March, Fuller’s announced a raft of changes to its board​ following the disposal of the Fuller’s Beer Business, with the roles of managing director of The Fuller’s Beer Company, a separate managing director for Fuller’s Inns and the role of corporate affairs director becoming redundant.

However, Emeny explained no further changes were afoot, with the company “making sure that we've got the right board to reflect the strategic priorities of the business going forwards and that we've got the right board running the business”.

Strategic priorities

"This is a relatively unique deal because it’s a business that Asahi coveted,” Emeny explains. “It gives them the opportunity to add some outstanding premium brands to their premium brand portfolio. And with their resources and distribution reach, they can take our brands to a much broader audience.”

Discussing whether or not brewing remained a viable line of business for family-owned pub companies, and whether the deal between Asahi and Fuller’s could be the first of many similar acquisitions in the sector, Emeny added: “It’s difficult for me to comment on where that leaves other companies but certainly I think this is a relatively unique deal because it suited the strategic priorities of both sides.”

Additionally, discussing the possible global distribution of Fuller’s products, Emeny explained: “That's very much for Asahi to work through, but if you take our export business, which has been very successful with relatively limited resources – we don't employ anybody overseas, we work through distributors in different countries – Asahi have people on the ground in a number of regions all over the world, that's probably one example of how they can increase the reach of our brands.”

Impact on pub estate

According to Emeny, the £250m deal paves the way for Fuller’s to continue expanding its estate of pubs – which currently numbers close to 400 sites. “That's certainly something that we've identified in addition to returning some money to shareholders and also having discussions with our pension scheme,” he explained.

“We will be looking to reinvest the net proceeds in expanding our pub and hotel estate, very much strategically along the same lines that we've been very successful in over the past 10-plus years. We’ll continue to look to acquire high-quality sites within our target market.”

In addition, Emeny highlighted that the deal would allow the winner of the best accommodation operator at the 2019 Publican Awards​ to move towards a long-standing target of 1,000 bedrooms across its estate of pubs, which boasted 813 as of February. 

“We've been updating the markets on a regular basis and moving gradually towards having 1,000 bedrooms in our estate even without the benefits of this deal,” he explained. “Clearly, we’ll be looking to grow our bedrooms’ side of the business.”

However, Emeny was keen to assure operators of Fuller’s pubs that it would be “very much business as usual” following the completion of the deal with Asahi and the integration of the two company’s product portfolios.

“We’ve consciously made sure that we’ve structured the deal in that way so our pub customers aren’t really going to notice any difference at all,” Emeny said. “They’re still going to have access to the same portfolio of products and they will still have access to products outside of the Asahi and Fuller’s portfolio as they do at the moment.

“Our customers will continue to benefit from a business that continues to source really interesting products across the marketplace.”

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