Marston’s sells 200 pubs to cut debt

Brewer and pubs operator Marston’s has agreed to sell more than 200 pubs for £90 million as it seeks to cut the costs of servicing its £1 billion debt.

Real estate investment trust NewRiver River, which is buying the 202 venues, said it planned to convert them into convenience stores or restaurants.

Marston’s chief executive Ralph Findlay said the deal would help the firm pay down some debt, saving £6.7 million in interest a year.

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The sale was announced as the Wolverhampton-based company – which makes beers including Cumberland Ale, Hobgoblin and Pedigree – said underlying pre-tax profits rose 1 per cent to £88.4m in the year to 5 October, on revenues 9 per cent higher at £782.9m.

Findlay said the firm, which last year unveiled plans to build ten outlets in Scotland at a cost of about £25m, would accelerate both its new-build programme and the sale of lower-turnover pubs.

He added: “We have made an encouraging start to the new financial year and remain confident that our proven strategy is aligned to the underlying trends in the sector.”

Marston’s proposed a final dividend of 4.1p a share, giving a total payout for the year of 6.4p, a 5 per cent increase on last time.