Admiral Taverns chief executive Kevin Georgel has told MCA that the group has the “appetite for a game-changing acquisition and the resources to do that”.

Georgel spoke to MCA following yesterday’s update on trading in the year to 3 June, which Georgel described as a “solid and sustainable performance in the face of multiple pressures”.

He told MCA that the group now had just “a few dozen” disposals likely and that the focus was firmly back on acquisitions, with the support of new backers, C&C Group and Proprium Capital. He said that while individual and small package deals would continue to be a focus, the group had ambitious targets.

He said that while consumer confidence had clearly been hit, loyalty was strongest towards authentic, local businesses and pointed out that there was already evidence of competitors moving away from brands and adopting a more individual feel – something he expects this to continue.

He said: “A lot of companies talk about personalisation and creating character but nothing can rival the pub, especially in the tenanted model. The owner/operator is at the heart of the business and knows exactly what the local community want because they are in daily contact with them.”

He said the group would continue to invest in the estate and shape the operating formats of pubs, adding: “We want to complement the knowledge on the ground by the experience we have in operating pubs across the country. We are doing a lot of work to appeal to the millennial market and stretch our target demographic.”

He said he was also pleased at the increasing diversity of Admiral’s publicans, with the average age of licensees having fallen 10% and more women running its pubs than ever before.

He said that the Market Rent Only option, enshrined in the Pubs Code, had so far had a limited impact on Admiral. Of eight applications, only one has led to an MRO agreement, with no referrals to the Adjudicator.

On the potential for growth, Georgel said: “We have gone through a period of transformation and the future is very much about looking for the right opportunities to grow.

“We have the appetite for a game-changing acquisition and the resources to do that but it has to be the right deal.”

On the prevalence of alternative agreements in the tenanted sector, Georgel said: “We remain alive to what is going on in the market but the key question is always – what is the best operating model for this pub.

“One of the reasons we haven’t experimented with different kinds of offers is that we have never had the scale to do that. As we grow it may be something that makes more sense for us.”