Banks are still willing to invest in pub companies if there are “sensible structures” in place, according to Mike Delay, relationship director in Barclays’ corporate banking arm. Delay was speaking as part of a panel debate led by Zolfo Cooper’s Paul Hemming at the M&C Report UK Pub Retail Summit on the relative investment interests of banks and private equity firms in the sector. He said: “I can certainly see much more general support both from the lower end and the large end and it is very clear and important that we support the lower end because they are the next evolution of the industry coming through. “From a Barclays perspective we are open for business and the controls around release of capital have eased in the last 12 to 18 months and I think that progress is continuing. “When there is a clear strategy, and management supporting it, then there is clear appetite for support (from banks) and I think an example of that is where certain banks including Barclays are sitting on or own managed and tenanted pub estates." However, Bill Priestley, of private equity group LGV, which backs Amber Taverns, claimed banks are now a lot more cautious about investing in new pub companies. “I think pretty much every bank owns pub companies,” said Priestley. “Banks don’t want to own pub companies but they found themselves owning them and have put up with it because they realised that if they sell they are going to sell at a loss. “I think that as a whole that means that banks are not keen to lend new money to new pub companies and I think it is incredibly difficult if you want to set up a new company to raise bank funds. And I think in leasehold operations in particular it is almost near impossible. “I think the best place to be is when the banks are already there because then they will support you because they sort of have to.”