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Pub owner set to shed 6,000 sites

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Punch Taverns is planning to downsize by closing 6,000 sites

Chef & Brewer pub owner Punch Taverns is drawing up plans to call time on nearly 6,000 pubs across the UK in a bid to slash its £3.1 billion debt.

Ian Dyson, the new chief executive, may hand the tenanted estate – that is pubs Punch owns but leases to independent landlords – to the group’s bondholders, The Sunday Times said.

Mr Dyson wants to focus on the remaining 800 pubs directly managed by Punch, which includes the Chef & Brewer chain.

The group, which also manages the Fayre & Square pub chain, is understood to have appointed bank Goldman Sachs and asset management firm Blackstone to prepare for a restructuring.

The restructuring proposal is among options being considered by Mr Dyson. Others include a debt-for-equity swap or more pub disposals.

Punch’s borrowings have been slowly reduced by pub sell-offs, but shares have plunged from 1365p three years ago to 59p on Friday.

The company offloaded 893 pubs in the financial year to August, in which it reported underlying profits of £131 million for the period, down from £160 million a year earlier.

In the managed estate, which includes Chef & Brewer and Fayre & Square, like-for-like sales were up 2.6% in the final quarter.

Mr Dyson started a review of strategy and operating performance when he joined the company in September from Marks & Spencer, in order to explore options for creating shareholder value.

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