As reported by The Sunday Times, the Wolverhampton-based operator of more than 1,500 pubs has appointed advisers from property specialists Christie & Co to sell 150 sites in a process being referred to as Project Harvest.
Initial bids for the portfolio were due on Friday 27 September according to The Sunday Times’ report, however it is understood that the deadline has been delayed.
Links to portfolio
Red Oak Taverns, Admiral Taverns and NewRiver have been linked to the portfolio, which is valued at between £40m and £45m.
It is believed the proceeds from the sale of the mixture of tenanted, leased and retail agreement-based sites in England and Wales will be used to pay off Marston’s debt.
As reported by The MA, the brewer and operator outlined plans in July to tackle £200m of its £1.4bn net debt quicker than initially planned after it revealed intentions to defer £70m of new-build investment planned for the next three years and reallocate between £20m and £30m of said funds into organic capital plans to generate extra cash flow.
Marston’s spent £74.4m in the 26 weeks ending 30 March 2019, including £27.1m on new pubs and bars, according to figures reported by The MA.
The company also acquired 15 former Mitchells & Butlers pubs in September 2018 which have been subject to around £4m investment since.
News of the portfolio’s availability follows community pub operator Admiral Taverns’ agreement to take over 150 tenanted community pubs from Heineken’s pub-arm Star Pubs & Bars on 25 September.
The MA contacted both Marston’s and Christie & Co for comment, but at the time of writing had yet to receive a response.
Chance to continue trading
Discussing the announcement, a spokesperson from the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) commented: "This news will understandably bring uncertainty, but it's possible for the company to manage the sale in a way which benefits licensees, consumers and the company alike.
"By offering the people running these pubs the opportunity to purchase them free of tie, Marston's can show it cares about its customers, its tenants, and their communities.
"Above all, it is most essential that these pubs are given a genuine chance to continue as going concerns under new ownership."