Brewer in surprise approach for Spirit

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Chef & Brewer pub company Spirit has become the subject of a takeover tussle after it rejected a bid proposal from the maker of Magners cider.

The surprise approach from Dublin-based C&C, which also brews Tennent’s lager and Gaymers cider, threatens to gatecrash Spirit’s talks with Greene King following an earlier cash and shares deal worth £750m.

C&C, which is run by a number of former executives of brewer Scottish & Newcastle, outlined its interest in a stock market statement yesterday, even though its takeover proposal was rejected by Spirit on Thursday night.

The cider company said: “An acquisition of Spirit, one of the highest quality pub estates in the UK, would transform C&C and enhance long-term shareholder value.”

It told investors that a merger offered “a compelling consumer platform” for C&C’s brands in some of the best UK locations, particularly London. The company does not own any pubs.

Spirit has an estate of 794 managed pubs including those under the brands Fayre & Square, Flaming Grill, Taylor Walker and John Barras.

There are also 433 pubs in its leased estate, the majority of which are former managed sites with an average annual net income of over £100,000. Earlier this week, Spirit posted an 11 per cent rise in underlying profits to £60m in the year to August 23.