Stonegate Pub Co.  – the UK’s largest pub operator – is reportedly looking to sell more than a fifth of its estate to pay off mounting debts.

According to a report in Bloomberg, the Slug and Lettuce owner has debts of up to GBP2.6bn (US$3.2bn) and is looking to scale back its 4,500 site portfolio amid soaring energy bills, widespread staff shortages and other rising costs.

Citing people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg said the pub operator believed it could raise GBP800m from the sell-off, which the publication said was being advised by investment bank Eastdil Secured.

When approached by Just Drinks, representatives for Stonegate declined to comment.

Last summer, Stonegate placed 75 ‘freehold’ pubs on the market, at a reported price of GBP100m. It is not clear if these pubs are among those the TDR Capital-owned group is still looking to sell.

Stonegate became the UK’s largest pub operator just before the onset of the pandemic, when it completed a takeover of rival firm Ei Group for GBP3bn in February 2020.

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By GlobalData

The reported move comes at a time when other UK operators are also struggling. Last week, JD Wetherspoon said it was looking to offload 35 pubs, with founder Tim Martin warning the UK on-premise faced a fight to bring back drinkers who have got used to staying at home during Covid-19 lockdowns.

Last month, Fuller Smith & Turner announced a profit warning, blaming rail strikes for lower sales in the run-up to Christmas.

In November, BrewDog’s president and chief operating officer left the Scottish brewer to take over as CEO at Stonegate.

David McDowall – who had been with BrewDog in various senior roles for the past eight years – replaced long-standing Stonegate boss Simon Longbottom, who stood down to “pursue interests abroad”.

Announcing the appointment, Stonegate described McDowall as a “highly regarded operator” who had been instrumental in growing the craft brewer’s 100-strong bar empire.