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Admiral Taverns intends to remain at the forefront of M&A activity in the sector, after acquiring 37 freehold pubs from Fuller’s last month, according to CEO Chris Jowsey.

The £18.3m acquisition scales Admiral’s UK wide estate to over 1,420 pubs, while strengthening its presence in the South-East.

Jowsey tells MCA that the Proprium Capital-backed business will continue to regularly review the opportunities available to it across the UK.

“We continue to focus on our strategic plans to acquire, develop and maintain a high-quality estate of successful, individual wet-led community pubs at the heart of their communities,” he says.

Discussing the rationale behind the latest acquisition, Jowsey adds that the “vibrant and thriving” South-East is an area Admiral had been keen to grow its footprint in for some time. Almost 50% of the new sites are located in London, Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire.

“This acquisition will enable us to strengthen our presence in the South-East of England, taking the total number of pubs in the region to more than 300, not only increasing our regional reach, but expanding our national footprint.

“We have a strong track record of acquiring pubs at Admiral so I, and the team, look forward to integrating the new sites into the group and supporting these pubs and their communities,” he adds.

Discussing current performance, Jowsey says Admiral continues to see strong trading across its estate of community wet-led pubs, and remains “optimistic” in its community ethos.

Admiral pubs are predominantly wet-led, not serving food or only having a very small offering, which means utility costs are much lower, providing more resilience.

The CEO says despite the wider complexities of the macroeconomic environment, wet-led community pubs have really demonstrated their resilience in recent times, “with people continuing to visit their local for an affordable treat with family and friends.

“At the same time, we are seeing an increase in consumer spending and confidence, particularly within our estate where customers may opt to visit their local community pub rather than spending lots of money going into town where prices may be more expensive.

Footfall has also remained high since pubs reopened following the pandemic, with customers having “renewed appreciation for their local pubs.

“We are experiencing a trend where customers are visiting pubs earlier, but also leaving them earlier - spending the same amount of time in a pub, just in a different way. It puts community pubs in a great position, as they attract a very diverse range of customers and our licensees work extremely hard to ensure they have something on almost every day of the week to attract these customers, catering to their preferences.”

Looking forward, Jowsey says if a Labour Government were to be elected in early July, he would like to see recognition that the beer and pub sector is key to the UK.

“Firstly, as a crucial engine for growth for the British economy, creating jobs, opportunity, and community across the UK.

“Almost 1 million people are employed in the sector and it’s important to recognise the contribution this makes. Second as a key part of the social and cultural make-up of the UK – included in strategic planning for villages, towns and city centres because of the social value pubs provide to their communities.

“Given the opportunity, we’d lobby for Fair Business Rates reform to keep pubs open and offer support for those looking to reopen on our high street. Reduced beer duty would also ensure pints remain affordable for all and support the brewing industry and pubs to continue helping our economy grow,” he continues.