Charles Wells Pub Company is looking to more than double its existing estate in France to reach 10 sites within the next three years. The group currently has four pubs in France under the John Bull Pub Company, a separate trading division, with a tenanted pub in Paris and managed sites in Montpelier and Toulouse. The company told M&C Report that it was planning to expand its French portfolio gradually and was searching for sites in large cities with big student populations. Kate Hempsall, Charles Wells’ marketing manager, said: “The model seems to work in France and we believe there is scope for around 10 pubs over the next three years. “Student towns are a big driving force and we are looking to acquire retail outlets and convert them into pubs.” The premises in France have been transformed to look like traditional British pubs, serving a combination of cask ales and products adapted to the French market. The group, which has an estate of 247 pubs trading in the UK, said it was looking to continue expanding the company nationally and that it was on the look out for opportunities to acquire a small pub group with up to 30 sites. It said it had the investment funds for further acquisitions and was targeting top-end, food-led outlets with rooms if possible, but admitted that it was a currently a tough market for the sector and that it would only purchase sites at the right price. Hempsall said: “We have to be brutally realistic about the current market, and trading is tough for pubs at the moment.” Charles Wells has also disposed of two of its freehold pubs in London, the King of Denmark in Islington and the Marquis of Anglesey in Paddington to Allied Capital Investment Property for £1.25m, with DCL brokering the deal. The sale is part of package of 10 pubs located across the UK that were listed for disposal in November, with four already sold and four in the process of being sold. The company said that the disposals were part of a general churning of its estate and included pubs that were found to be unsustainable, some of which were land-locked and severely impacted by the smoking ban. The pub group, however, said that it was focusing on providing more support for its licensees and recruiting the best calibre of operators in order to help it through the current economic downturn.