UK pub group abandons Irish plans

British pub and restaurant owner Mitchells & Butlers is understood to have scrapped plans to expand into Ireland.

The group — which owns popular UK pub chains such as All Bar One and the Irish-themed O’Neill’s — had, reportedly, been running the rule over opportunities here earlier this year, even apparently having gone as far as identifying up to six potential locations in Dublin and Cork.

A large part of M&B’s recent growth strategy has surrounded its family-themed restaurant division, which includes the likes of Harvester and Toby Carvery. The group recently bought a chunk of British rival, the Orchid Group for £266m (€335m) to boost that division further.

It had been thought that M&B — in which Irish financiers John Magnier and JP McManus own a significant stake, via their Elpida investment vehicle — was looking at pushing the restaurant side of its business in the Irish market, rather than its pub interests.

However, according to commercial property sector sources, the group has now shelved all plans for Ireland, with it seemingly more concerned about integrating its recent purchase and further expanding in its core UK market.

“This is an exciting time for our business as we start the integration of the high-quality Orchid estate, which we believe will accelerate our growth and create significant value over the long-term.

“We remain focused on our strategic priorities and are well-placed for future success,” commented M&B’s chief executive Alistair Darby in the group’s third quarter trading update, yesterday, despite a recent slowdown in the eating and drinking out market in Britain.

The group managed to grow its sales by 3.8% in the third quarter — the 14 weeks up to mid July — and has seen growth of just under 3% in its financial year to date.

As well as the Orchid business — integration of which is progressing well and should be immediately enhancing to adjusted earnings — M&B has, this year, opened another 20 new outlets and converted eight existing ones.

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