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UK: W&D looking for acquisitions in 2004

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Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries is looking to make acquisitions going forward. The company, which currently owns around 1,600 pubs, said yesterday that it has £150m (US$273m) free to buy more pubs after first-half trading met expectations.

In an interview, chief executive Ralph Findlay said that the extra finance, coming from the company's debt re-financing, could "give us the scope to make acquisitions up to £150m, and we could raise more given our relatively low debt gearing."

Although Findlay would not reveal further details about targets, Deutsche Bank's 620-strong Laurel Pub Company may come on the market this summer, while Eldridge Pope, which W&D approached last year, may also be an option.

In a trading update earlier this week, the group said that its 1,150 leased and tenanted pubs saw like-for-like sales up by 5.2% in the 25 week period to 20 March. Trading in its beer business was described satisfactory.


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