Enterprise Inns, one of the UK's largest pub groups, has said the rate of pub closures in its portfolio is up 50% on last year.

Closures are costing Enterprise around GBP2m (US$3.3m) per month in lost income, the group said in a trading update today (16 July).

"Our increased level of support for licensees has reduced the rate of business failures, which are nonetheless occurring at a rate some 50% ahead of last year," said the group, which has more than 7,500 pubs in its portfolio.

Direct financial support to struggling pubs is costing Enterprise GBP1.7m per month, meanwhile. Around 800 licensees are on short-term rent reductions or special discounts in order to keep the pubs afloat, Enterprise said.

Enterprise's update on pub closures comes amid growing debate over the so-called 'tie' arrangement between pubs and licensees. Enshrined in legislation, the tie forces licensees to buy beer from their pub company landlord. Critics say that this and pub company rent rises are contributing to pub closures.

The UK House of Commons Business and Enterprise Committee called on the Competition Commission to investigate the tie, a move which pub companies such as Enterprise have argued is unnecessary.

So far in 2009, Enterprise has sold off 277 pubs for GBP84m, in order to reduce debt.

"We intend to refinance our existing bank facilities before the end of the next financial year and remain confident that adequate debt facilities will be available to the Group at the time of our refinancing," said the group.

Net income at the group's 6,100 licensed pubs fell 3% year-on-year for the 41 weeks to 11 July, although a decline in beer sales is slowing, it added.