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Marston's toasts £55m deal for Bombardier brewer

By Simon Penfold | Wolverhampton | Entertainment | Published:

Wolverhampton beer and pubs giant Marston's has bought Charles Wells' brewery business – home of Bombardier – in a £55 million deal.

Marston's CEO Ralph Findlay at Marston's House in Wolverhampton.

The Bedford brewery will be added to Marston's existing roster of five, including Wolverhampton's Park Brewery – home of Banks's.

The move will see Marston's now supplying beer and win to Charles Wells' 200 pubs. At the same time boss Ralph Findlay revealed a brace of deals to supply its beers to another 1,700 pubs nationwide.

It will mean more recruitment for Marston's delivery operations, which are based at the Park Brewery site where the company has its new £10m headquarters and already employs around 1,000 people.

Marston's – which owns Two For One and Pitcher & Piano – released details of the Charles Wells acquisition alongside its half-year results, which showed a three per cent rise in underlying revenue to £440.8 million in the six months to April 1.

Underlying pre-tax profit for the period also rose three per cent, to £33.7m, boosted by its new pub restaurants and a strong performance from its brewing business. This was despite a £1.5m hit from the Easter holidays falling later this year.

The takerover of the Charles Wells brewing and beer business will raise Marston's ale market share up from 11 per cent to 16 per cent, bringing brands like Young's, Bombardier and McEwan's under the same roof as Marston's labels including Hobgoblin, Wainwright and Banks's.

Chief executive Ralph Findlay said the Charles Wells site at Bedford would also give Marston's new lager brewing and canning operations, saving it £6m that it had previously planned to spend on a new canning plant at Burton.

He said: "The acquisition of Charles Well will be a really good deal for Marston's."

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"It is a high quality brewing business offering us opportunities to extend our trading area in the South of England and Scotland, and brings a range of well-known and popular brands into our portfolio."

Charles Wells has been brewing in Bedford since 1876 and currently produces more than 100 million litres of beer every year. The 300 brewing and delivery staff there will transfer to Marston's.

Meanwhile this year the Wolverhampton company is opening 20 gastropubs, eight of its lodge hotels – including the site at Gailey's Spread Eagle – as well as spending £13m on buysing seven new pubs from an unnamed national company.

Alongside is half dozen breweries in has around 1,565 pubs and employs 13,500 people nationwide.

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Mr Findlay said new distribution deals with Punch and Birmingham pub owner Hawthorn Leisure would see Marston's beers delivered to up to 1,700 additional pubs this year.

Along with the Charles Wells deal, he said that would mean more investment in Marston's distribution business, in terms of both recruitment and more vehicles.

Since the start of April, Marston's says it has seen a 'solid start' to the second half of its financial year with pub sales and beer sales both up, thanks in part to a late Easter.

Simon Penfold

By Simon Penfold
Business Editor - @SPenfold_star

Business Editor based at the Express & Star's head office in Wolverhampton, looking for stories big & small.

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