Growth in Punch’s managed pub division has come despite lower investment its managed pubs as a percentage of turnover than Greene King and Marston’s, according to leading City analyst Paul Hickman. Hickman, of Peel Hunt, said Punch’s estimated full-year investment in its managed sites is £76,000 per pub, representing 8.9% of turnover in the managed division. Comparative figures for Greene King are £87,000 per pub, or 11.4% of turnover. For Marston’s, it’s £90,000 per venue and 11% of turnover. Last week Punch reported a 7.3% growth in Q3 life-for-like sales in its Spirit managed arm, bringing 40-week growth to 5.7%. Hickman said the Spirit sales growth is “not bad on a comparative basis, given that it actually is not investing as much as some of its peers. “This reflects the good returns that can be made on an under-invested estate. In addition, +3.5% uninvested LFL growth in the quarter does suggest that independent management quality and brand management are having a significant effect, quite aside from capital inverstment. “These strengths are recognised in Punch’s share price – although we hesitate to claim that anything should be added for the Punch tenancies. “Sustainable investment-led growth is a key differentiator in the pub sector, and undoubtedly Greene King (Buy, TP 566p) and Marston’s (Buy, TP 130p), our top sector buys, lead the field.” Comparatived figures for Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), meanwhile, show average per-pub investment at £19,000, or 1.7% of turnover. Hickman admitted that the excerise is “sensitive to timing” as M&B only started its current investment strategy midway through FY2010. However, Hickman noted that JD Wetherspoon’s capex has “not varied much” - Peel Hunt estimates average per-pub spend to be £58,000, or 4.2% of turnover. “Our numbers reflect the strategy based on expansion of c5% of the estate,” said Hickman.