Shepherd Neame says the simplification of its shareholder structure is to make the company more appealing to investors, to enable its continued improvement strategy.

Chief executive Jonathan Neame said there had previously been some barriers to investing in the company, but several changes have come about to increase attractiveness for investors. These include moving shares to CREST (the central securities depository and settlement system), eligibility of shares towards ISA schemes, and recent changes to the ISDX including relief from stamp duty.

Neame told M&C Report: “We have done a lot of work in last 12 – 18 months investing in our estate, including buying some great pubs and hotels to redevelop. All things are coming together so now the time is right to attract potential investors.

“Our current immediate priority is to invest in our estate to bring the offering to the consumer up and drive footfall.”

Neame said that as confidence returns to the leisure sector, the company wants to make its pubs as appealing as possible to customers. “People are wanting to spend money on leisure brands now but are only prepared to spend that money where the offering is good.”

He said that the economic recovery has “felt strong in London for a while, but it is now spreading out in to the regions” where the majority of Shepherd Neame pubs are.

As confidence increases the company felt the time was ripe to change the current two-tiered share structure into a more simplified model.

“This (current two-tiered) structure has been in place for a long time. It is a complex structure and something we have been considering for a long time but for various reasons we have not felt it appropriate but now there is the support to make this change. We had to consider is the company in good health; is the sector as a whole doing well; is the economy in good shape, before moving forwards.”

Neame said the company is still open to acquisition opportunities but is seeing these less often than a few years ago: “We see far more options to upgrade and develop existing estate that acquire more pubs. There’s not an oversupply of suitable sites at present.”

The board has made a recommendation to the shareholders to vote in favour of the restructure at the AGM on 5 June. The company said it has received “irrevocable undertakings” to vote in favour of the resolutions from shareholders holding 24.6% of the issued A shares (3.5% of the total voting rights) and 66.1%% of the B shares (56.6% of the total voting rights). Together they represent 29% of the total issued share capital and 60.1% of the total voting rights of the company.

The nominal value of a share will not have an impact on its market price.

Yesterday, Shepherd Neame said trade has “continued to be strong through the spring months”, with like-for-like EBITDAR up +4.1% in the tenanted estate, average EBITDAR per tenanted pub up +6% and like-for-like sales in its managed houses up by +8.8% for the 39 weeks to 29 March.