A depressed pub market means Royal Bank of Scotland may not be able to sell all of its 1,000 pubs acquired from Scottish & Newcastle nine years ago.

The troubled bank is said to be again scouting for potential suitors, after it initially acquired the pubs for GBP450m (US$731m) between 2000 and 2001.

The bank first looked at a sale in January this year in order to limit further financial loss by exiting the shrinking on-trade beer market.

The UK Government today raised its stake in Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to 84%, after the bank was forced to take part in a state insurance scheme. Asset disposals to reduce debt have been a priority since the Treasury took a 58% stake in the group last year via an emergency bailout package.

James Dawson, analyst for Charles Stanley Securities, believes the bank may stand more of a chance of selling its 1,000-strong pub network if it breaks up the estate.

"I'm more inclined to think they'll have more of a chance if they do break up, merely because anyone would be reluctant to take on such a large estate," he told just-drinks today (15 December).

Dawson added that potential buyers may not want "problematic sites" and may prefer to "cherry pick" rather than take an entire estate.

The UK pub and beer industry is facing one its toughest periods in a generation.

Around 50 pubs are closing down every week, while on-trade beer sales have fallen in mid to high single digits in every quarter over the last 12 months, according to figures from the British Beer and Pub Association.