The story of Marston's mergers and acquisitions

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Look back: Marston's has undertaken many acquisitions across its history
Look back: Marston's has undertaken many acquisitions across its history

Related tags Marston's pub company Managed pubs Pubco + head office Finance

The Morning Advertiser has delved into the history of Marston’s, looking at the company’s biggest deals across the years.

Currently, the business has about 1,500 pubs across the nation comprising managed, franchised and leased pubs, and includes brands such as Pitcher & Piano and Revere.

While Marston’s has been running pubs and brewing beer for almost two centuries, if we look back across the past few years, in 2007, the company announced it had acquired bar and pub operator Eldridge Pope for £155.1m​.

The Eldridge estate, which was bought by Cannon for £82m in October 2004, the consisted of 135 pubs based predominately in Southern England, with 18 sites to be disposed of.

It also included the Que Pasa high street brand and Fairdeed, a wholesale business, which distributed wines and spirits and packaged products to the Eldridge estate.

The continuing estate included 95 managed pubs and 40 tenanted pubs, with freehold pubs contributing around 80% of outlet earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA).

In the same year, Marston’s confirmed the sale of 279 tenanted pubs to Piccadilly Licensed Properties.

It also saw the acquisition of four pubs from Rutland Pub Company for £5.5m​, which were located in the rural areas of Rutland, Warwickshire and Lincolnshire.

Fuller’s acquired a five-strong package of pubs from Marston’s​, in a deal worth £16m in October 2011.

During the same year, Marston’s stated it had built 15 new builds​ in the previous year and was expecting the build 20 that year and 25 the next.

Disposal history

The next 12 months brought the news about Marston’s giving its Pitcher & Piano team 10 additional sites​ to develop into new unbranded premium managed pub formats.

The company disposed of 202 pubs for £90m to NewRiver Retail in November of 2013​. This comprised 158 community pubs from Marston’s Taverns estate and 44 leased pubs.

The same year also saw the company sell a package of 27 new build pubs to Legal & General Property​ in a sale and leaseback deal with just under £70m.

During 2017, Marston’s bought Charles Wells’ brewing business and beer distribution rights​ for £55m.

Fast-forward to 2018 and it was revealed Marston’s reached an agreement to acquire 15 former Mitchells & Butlers pubs from property investment company Aprirose​ in a trading update for the year ending 29 September.

Marston’s expected to complete and lease-fund this acquisition in the first half of 2019 and would invest approximately £4m post acquisition with a target EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) of around £500,000 in 2019 and at least £1m in 2020.

September 2019 saw reports the firm was looking to see 150 of its pubs for £45m. As reported by The Sunday Times​​, the Wolverhampton-based operator appointed advisers from property specialists Christie & Co to sell 150 sites in a process that was being referred to as Project Harvest.

Initial bids for the portfolio were due on Friday 27 September according to The Sunday Times’​​ report, however was understood the deadline was delayed.

Less than two months later in November of 2019, the Wolverhampton-based operator sold 137 pubs to Admiral​ in line with its plans to slash its debt of £200m by 2023. This deal, which for £44.9m, comprised smaller, wet-led, leased, tenanted and franchised pubs.

Just last year (January 2020), Marston’s sold 29 pubs to Hawthorn​ for an undisclosed sum. In the same month, the pub company revealed a trading update​ where it reported in the year to date (18 January 2020), Marston’s had completed or exchange on £60m of disposals.

Recent news

In May, Marston’s Brewing Business and Carlsberg UK announced their intention to merge​ and the operator said the deal would enable Marston’s to “be a focused pub operator concentrating entirely on our pub business but with an investment within the joint venture”.

Last winter (December 2020), Marston’s announced it would operate SA Brain’s portfolio of 156 pubs in Wales​ on a combination of leased and management contract arrangements, safeguarding 1,300 jobs.

Marston’s agreed to operate to operate 141 SA Brain & Co freehold pubs under the Brains brand and a further 15 leasehold sites under management contract.

Furthermore, in January this year, Marston’s confirmed reports US-based Platinum Equity made an initial approach​ to take the Wolverhampton-based operator private.

According to reports by Bloomberg, the operator of close to 1,400 pubs received an unsolicited non-binding proposal from the American firm regarding a possible cash offer for its share capital. 

Marston’s has since confirmed the news, releasing a statement revealing that its board will evaluate the proposal with its advisers and a further announcement will be made in due course.

“There can be no certainty that any firm offer will be made for the Company, nor as to the terms on which any firm offer might be made,” it added.

However, this was followed by Platinum revealing it was not intending to submit a revised proposal for Marston’s​ and was not making a firm offer for the business.

This came after the pub company rejected an offer from the US-based Platinum, which was rebuffed for undervaluing Marston’s.

The equity firm stated it had decided not to continue pursuing the takeover after careful consideration.

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