Charles Wells continues to be one of the few larger brewers which makes any effort for St George's Day and this year its associated promotion of Broadside was a great success.
The independent brewers' trade body, SIBA, is expanding its ground-breaking deal with Nomura's Unique Pub Company. Normally smaller brewers are frozen out from pubcos as the economies of scale aren't there but SIBA has organised a successful bulk supply deal, which will now cover all 2,500 pubs and include about 350 brands of beer.
The 3,000 pubs have gone to Morgan Grenfell Private Equity (a subsidiary of Deutsche Bank), which is selling some on: 439 to Enterprise Inns already. (Enterprise is selling 176 pubs to help pay for these and for ones it's bought from Scottish & Newcastle - see below.) The group of about 2,500 pubs is now called the Laurel Pub Company.
What remains is a hotel, restaurant and leisure company. Brands include Cafe Rouge, Pizza Hut, Bella Pasta, David Lloyd fitness clubs, Travel Inns and Marriott Hotels (UK).
They're reported to be considering selling everything that's left, as the name Whitbread has little residual value.
As reported in the July What's Brewing, the Whitbread Archive, the largest such archive in the country, is to be split up, as the space is needed in the old brewery site in Chiswell Street, City of London, for new luxury flats.
Meanwhile W&D's own plans include selling off some pubs, including the Pitcher & Piano chain, closing or selling the Mansfield Brewery and selling the Cameron's Brewery to Castle Eden. This would leave it with the Banks's Brewery in Wolverhampton and the Marston's Brewery in Burton-Upon-Trent (with its unique Burton Union cask system and Pedigree Bitter), plus about 1,500 pubs. W&D is one of the few large pub-owning companies which supports full pints.
CAMRA is running a major campaign to support W&D's plans and to fight the Pubmaster takeover. There's an online petition on the Web site.
Meanwhile South African Breweries is reported to be interested in buying Bass Breweries as part of its European expansion. It already owns Pilsner Urquell.
Around 1,000 pubs were sold to Nomura, the UK's largest pubs group, leaving over 2,000.
What remains is a hotels & leisure group. Brands include Holiday Inn, Posthouse, Crowne Plaza, O'Neills, It's A Scream, All Bar One, Harvester, Browns and Robinsons soft drinks.
It's changing its name to Six Continents (it has no plans to open in Antarctica) as "Bass" went with the brewery.
Meanwhile it's selling off pubs it thinks are underperforming (mainly community pubs), leaving about 2,500 pubs, which are mainly managed, branded chains of large pubs in high steets such as Chef & Brewer and John Barras. About 650 pubs were sold in June, 432 to Enterprise Inns.
It now says that all major pub chains over-invested in pubs (i.e. trendy, short-lived themes) in the late 1990s, impacting profits. No, really?