Greene King, the brewer and pub operator, has acquired Cloverleaf, north west-based operator of freehold pub restaurants, for £55.8m. Founded in 2004 by former Whitbread executives Gary Douglas and John Winder, Cloverleaf operates 11 sites across the North of England and the Midlands with a further outlet to open soon. It currently employs around 500 staff. Greene King plans to invest £25m on its new acquisition, including the opening of 10 new Cloverleaf venues over the next two years, as part of its strategy to focus on food-led sites. Cloverleaf’s turnover for the 12 months to March 31, 2010, was £17.3m and revenues are expected to top £20m this year. Greene King says it is paying the equivalent to 8.7x annualised outlet Ebitda. The purchase of Cloverleaf and the planned £25m investment means that Greene King has utilized the remaining balance of its rights issue proceeds. A company statement said: “This is an exciting acquisition for Greene King as Cloverleaf operates large, freehold, quality pub restaurants, across the North of England and the Midlands, and is well positioned to capitalise on the growing carvery market. It is growing strongly both organically, with like-for-like sales growing ahead of our existing retail business, and through additional sites.” Analyst Greg Feehely of Altium Capital said: “The price looks sensible when set against the very strong growth prospects. This acquisition signals great confidence in the outlook for the next few years.” The purchase of Cloverleaf, came as Greene King reported healthy trading over the past eight weeks despite the poor weather, with all of its divisions in-line or improving from the half-year. Like-for-like sales rose 3.9% across its retail estate, with sales up 10.3% at Hungry Horse carveries and 3.6% ahead at Belhaven over the 38 weeks to January 23. Food sales rose 8.2% in its retail arm. The company’s tenanted pubs saw like-for-like earnings rise by 0.6%. Brewing volumes fell 3.3% against a 7.6% drop in the wider market over the 38-week period. News of the acquisition and of the robust trading performance lifted Greene King shares by as much as 6.9% during early trading, to reach 479.5p, their highest position since December 2009.