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UK’s largest pub group Ei to slash debt pile and launch buyback following £348mln pubs sale

US hedge fund giant Davidson Kempner Capital Management has paid £336.6mln for 348 pubs, with the remaining sales to go through in the coming weeks
pub
Ei owns thousands of pubs up and down the UK

The UK’s largest pub company, Ei Group PLC (LON:EIG), is to slash its debt pile and launch a £35mln share buyback after completing the sale of a substantial part of its pub-based portfolio.

US hedge fund giant Davidson Kempner Capital Management is paying £348.0mln for 370 of Ei’s pubs which generated underlying earnings of £26mln last year.

READ: Ei Group’s £348mln a ‘game changer’, says City broker

The FTSE 250 group has now received £336.6mln for 348 properties, with the remaining sales to go through once landlord consent has been received.

Of the money received so far, £150mln will be used to pay off loan and credit facilities, while a further £175.8mln will be used to repay £175.8mln worth of loan notes. The remaining £7mln or so will be held as cash.

City broker Liberum said that would cut the group’s debts to £1.6bn from around £1.9bn and “significantly reduce” its annual interest payments.

Ei estimates that its interest charges will fall to £136-138mln in 2019 and to £120-124mln next year.

In addition to the debt repayments, Ei announced it is returning another £35mln to shareholders, using funds from a buyback programme which will run until September.

‘Significant milestone’

“Today's announcement is a significant milestone for the business and evidence of our ability to unlock value across our estate and realise attractive cash proceeds for shareholders,” said chief executive Simon Townsend.

“This disposal will allow us to focus on driving growth across our core Publican Partnerships, Managed Operations and Managed Investments businesses, while also reducing our debt and delivering further shareholder value.”

He added: “With that in mind, we are pleased to announce a further £35mln share buyback programme, in addition to the £20mln programme we completed in January.”

Shares were up 2% to 205p on Friday morning.

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