Heartstone Inns, the South of England-based freehold pub operator, has secured a new £8m refinancing deal with HSBC which provides the company with £5m of development finance to invest in further pub acquisitions and to develop the existing 11-strong estate.

Birch told M&C that the group, which posted sales of £6.5m last year, hopes to add a further two sites to its estate this year and is in discussions on a number of opportunities to continue growing its estate.

He said that the group’s eventual goal would be to operate an estate of up to 30 sites across southern England. So far, the acquisitions have all been of individual pubs, but Birch said the group had the infrastructure in place to acquire a small group if the opportunity arose.

He said: “The trading momentum which we built up last year has continued into this year has continued into 2015, with like-for-like sales for the six months to the end of June up 3.4%. We have a tight head office structure, which at some point we will need to ramp up, but we could easily take on a smaller group. The foot is very much on the growth pedal. I am confident of adding one site before the end of the year, hopefully two.”

“Some of our sites are bursting at the seams, so the new funding will also enable us to add capacity in terms of new developments where possible,” said Birch.

He said that the group had looked at an IPO option at the turn of the year and that it might be an avenue it would again explore when it comes to assessing further funding options in around 18 months.

The group typically has a 60/40 food /drinks mix and Birch said it would continue to look for sites under this model.

Birch said: “We are delighted to have secured the ongoing support of HSBC. We recently completed the refurbishment of the Woodborough Inn, Winscombe, Somerset, one of the two pubs we acquired last November and we have a good pipeline of further internal developments and pub acquisitions under consideration.”

Ben Hyslop, HSBC senior corporate relationship director at the Hampshire Corporate Banking Centre, said: “We have supported Heartstone Inns since 2007 and we are delighted to continue that support with this latest funding arrangement which will enable the company to continue its growth plans.”

In April, the company reported a 5.3% year on year increase in sales growth to £6.5m for the 12 months to December 2014 and continued positive like for like sales growth for Q1 2015.

The company, which added two pubs to its estate during 2014, achieved pub EBITDA of £1.02m – up 13.2% on the previous year and an increased operating margin of 1.8% year on year to 15.8%.

Earlier this year, it was understood to be talking to investors about a possible IPO, which would value the company at c£13m, after reaching its EIS fundraising limit.