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Private equity bidder swoops with takeover approach for brewery and pubs group Marston’s

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 29/01/2021 Jim Armitage

Historic pubs group Marston’s today said it had received a takeover bid from a private equity group in a move that could kick off a flurry of deals in the Covid-stricken sector.

Marston’s long-standing chief executive Ralph Findlay has turned the once-family-run business into a takeover machine during his long tenure, buying up smaller local breweries around the UK.

Only last month, he did a deal to take over the running of Welsh brewer SA Brain & Co.

But now, faced by repeated lockdowns, the predator has turned prey, with Platinum Equity Advisors making a takeover offer to be funded entirely in cash.

The company is currently valued at £555 million, having seen its shares plunge, then partially recover since Covid.

It rebranded from the Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries moniker in 2007 to reflect its UK-wide ambitions, runs 1400 pubs.

It told the Stock Exchange: "The 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.”

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Under stock market rules, Platinum now has until close of play, 26 February, to make a formal offer.

Industry experts have been predicting potential deals in the sector as long-sighted investors look through the current crisis of lockdowns to bet on improved markets in the future.

Former Greene King chief Rooney Anand this month raised £200 million to invest in buying up pubs with private equity backing.

As a fellow long-term rival to Findlay - Anand was CEO of Greene King for 14 years - the pair are well acquainted.

As well as buying up smaller brewers, Findlay last year struck a deal with Carlsberg’s UK arm to form a £780 million joint venture, putting its brewing business in with Carlsberg’s.

It is not clear how a private equity takeover would work with that JV, in which Marston’s holds a 40% stake.

Marston’s beers include Banks’s, Hobgoblin and Marston’s Pedigree.

Its shares today leaped 16%, by 12p to 87p.

Findlay has been one of the more high profile figures in the industry calling for more help for pub companies from the government as they face a wave of closures due to Covid lockdowns.

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