April 30, 2014 6:04 pm

Greene King looks to crown strong growth with acquisitions

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The chief executive of Greene King said the pub group was open to making acquisitions, as the owner of 2,200 pubs and restaurants reported strong growth in its final quarter.

Rooney Anand, chief executive of Greene King, said: “Should consolidation opportunities present themselves, we want to play a part.”

Greene King has enjoyed solid growth so far this year, thanks to stronger consumer spending and new openings – which remains the group’s “Plan A” for growth, according to Mr Anand.

“We are not beholden to do anything [in terms of M&A],” said Mr Anand. “But we will review any opportunities to accelerate our strategy at a faster rate.”

For the first time since the start of the financial crisis in 2007, the pub sector – Punch Taverns aside – believes its has its house in order from a financial perspective. This has led some analysts to wonder whether M&A could be back on the menu.

Orchid, a chain of nearly 300 upmarket pubs owned by Deutsche Bank, is reportedly up for sale. Market rumours have also surfaced regarding a potential tie-up between Mitchells & Butlers and Greene King. Mr Anand declined to comment on any specific transactions.

The comments came as Greene King capped off a solid year with like-for-like sales in its managed “retail” division up 4.8 per cent over the past 16 weeks.

This was helped by rising food sales and consumers having a little more cash in their pockets. “The customer is now slightly more confident,” said Mr Anand.

Greene King suffered a blow last week after the appeals court threw out the pub group’s case over HMRC’s rejection of a scheme aimed at reducing the group’s tax bill, in a fight that has been rumbling on for a decade.

Mr Anand said Greene King was “reviewing our position” and the group could take the case to a higher court, but had not decided yet. “This is a tax scheme that was legitimate and legal but the environment has changed.”

Shares in Greene King fell 1.7 per cent to 887p.

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