Heineken is to review “a number” of initiatives operating across the Punch estate – including its Falcon retail contract programme – as it seeks to “keep the best of both worlds in the newly expanded estate”, MCA has learnt.
The group also told MCA its focus on driving up food sales in its estate would also be applied to the Punch acquisitions, supported by an investment programme.
Heineken and Patron Capital’s joint bid to acquire Punch – under the banner of Vine Acquisitions - was overwhelmingly approved by shareholders on Friday and will now be scrutinised by the Competitions and Markets Authority.
A Heineken spokesman confirmed to MCA that subject to regulatory approval it would acquire 1,900 of the 3,200 Punch pubs from Vine on the day of legal completion. The current Punch team would then operate the pubs (under Vine’s ownership) for a minimum of six months under a transition services agreement. At the end of that agreement – expected to be late 2017 or early 2018 – the pubs would be fully integrated into Heineken’s existing Star Pubs & Bars business.
The Dutch brewer expects that at the end of the agreement “a number of field-based Punch employees will be employed by Heineken”.
Asked whether there were plans to find roles for members of Punch’s senior team within Star, the spokesman said: “As Vine is buying Punch Taverns PLC, all their current employees will remains employees of Punch. It is for Vine to comment on future plans for the Punch senior team.”
On the issue of stocking rights for the 1,900 pubs, the spokesman said: “We have already confirmed that we have no intention of imposing blanket stocking conditions on Punch licensees joining Star Pubs & Bars. Importantly, as before, and they will benefit from the ability to stock drinks from a wide range of drinks suppliers, together with the rights afforded to them by the Pubs Code Regulations. In the longer term, any changes to the stock of a particular pub would only come about as a result of discussions and agreement with the lessee - prioritising what is right for that pub.”
On the long-term plans for the Punch pubs, the spokesman said: “We believe that there is compelling strategic rationale for enlarging our existing pub business through the acquisition of Punch A. Heineken considers pubs to be an integral part of British culture and that high-quality, well invested pubs run by skilled and motivated operators will continue to prosper. We believe that we can realise increased potential from Punch A through investment, as well as attracting and retaining the best licensees. The portfolio of Punch pubs are located across the UK and are highly complementary to Star.
“Following regulatory approval and legal completion, we will work closely with the incoming licensees, helping them to realise increased potential from the pubs that they operate. We intend to apply our successful experience to date to the newly acquired pubs, refurbishing and rejuvenating them, making them more relevant to their communities and capable of multiple income streams including food.
“A larger portfolio of pubs in attractive geographic locations also strengthens potential distribution consumer touch points for seeding our innovations, creates a bigger talent pool and increases the economies of scale.”