Mergers and acquisitions in the pub sector have dwindled to “zero” and operators will have to be “creative” to get deals done. That was the opinion of Anthony Gutman, managing director (leisure) of Goldman Sachs, at M&C Report’s Future of Pub Retailing (FOPR) 2008, held yesterday in London. He concluded that pub operators might have to look at minority funding from private equity companies – following on from the spectacular banking collapses last week and the on-going credit crunch. Gutman told delegates: “M&A activity has dwindled to almost zero. There just hasn’t been the deal flow. “When you go and talk to CEOs over the sector they say it’s just not a time to be brave. “People have no visibility into ’09. We think that the types of deals that are going to be done are going to be creative.” Because of the current economic difficulties there was more chance of completing a merger than an acquisition, added Gutman. “The problem is people don’t think that share prices are a true value of a company,” he argued. He said pub operators would be looking to do “creative” deals with budget hotel companies, restaurant firms and concession operators in the near future. Gutman said he also believed that it might be a time for the big breweries to get back into pub ownership. “Whether we get them trying to flex their muscle in the marketplace is certainly one to watch,” he added. “There is some serious creative thinking going on at the moment,” concluded Gutman.