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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Tue 13th Aug 2013 - Stonegate chairman – funding is in place to grow further
Stonegate chairman – funding is in place to grow further: Stonegate Pub Company chairman Ian Payne has told Propel that its backer, private equity firm TDR Capital, has funding in place to grow the business further – and the company is looking at every package of pub sites that comes on the market. The company, which is the UK’s largest privately owned managed pub company, has grown to 573 sites after the acquisition yesterday of the 13-strong Living Room brand. Payne said: “We’ve looked at every single deal on the market in depth – and we will continue to do that. We have the finance in place to grow although we’ve never had a numerical target – it about acquiring the right quality. The Living Room brand is a business I’ve known since Tim Bacon set it up – and we looked at it when it came in to the market in 2007. We think it’s got some of the best sites in the UK and it’s been trading very well under its various operators. It’s the brand’s sites and people that we really wanted.” Asked whether Stonegate planned to expand the brand, Payne said: “We plan to get to grips with it first and really understand it.” There has been speculation that Stonegate plans to convert some of Living Room’s sites to its Slug & Lettuce brand but Payne noted: “We’ve never said that!” Stonegate has doubled the size of its 02 Slug & Lettuce by moving into a former Thai restaurant next door – the 02 site has been the best-performing Slug & Lettuce in the estate behind Canary Wharf in weeks where 02 is busy with concerts. Slug & Lettuce has consistently out-performed the high street for a number of years with double-digit sales growth each year. Asked about current Slug & Lettuce performance, he said: “Slug & Lettuce is still the fastest growing brand on the high street.” The company instructed agents to find more Slug & Lettuce sites around eight months ago. Payne told Propel: “We’re still looking although we haven’t actually signed for anything – we’re pretty choosy about where we want to trade. It was one of the attractions of Living Room – every single site is well-located.” Stonegate has investing heavily in its existing estate – made up of 333 former Mitchells & Butlers wet-led pubs and the former Town and City Pub Company – and has been achieving a Return on Investment above 40%. The Living Room estate includes sites in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Bristol. The brand was founded by Tim Bacon in 1999 and was bought by Ultimate Leisure in 2007 for £28m.
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