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Last Updated: Friday, 11 May 2007, 07:00 GMT 08:00 UK
Marston's sells 279 pubs for 82m
Person drinking pint of lager
Marston's changed its name from Wolverhampton & Dudley this year
Brewer Marston's has sold 279 pubs to a property fund whose backers include Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson and X-Factor judge Simon Cowell.

Piccadilly Licensed Properties (PLP) snapped up the sites, which include some smaller non-food pubs, for 82.5m.

PLP, which is controlled by aAIM Group, has agreed a deal with Scottish & Newcastle to manage the pubs.

Marston's said the pubs being sold generated earnings of 7.5m in the year to September 2006.

Marston's, best known for its flagship Pedigree bitter, also owns the Pitcher & Piano and Taverners Carvery chains.

New strategy

The sell-off comes just months after the independent brewer bought pub chain Eldridge Pope from entrepreneur Michael Cannon for 155m.

However, following smoking bans in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, and an impending ban set to come into force in England in July pub companies have been changing their strategies.

In an effort to offset any problems associated with the new laws, many pub groups are selling off sites or converting them to include facilities to serve food.

"The effects of this disposal are to increase the average quality of our tenanted and leased estate, and to place us in a better position to take advantage of positive market trends, including growth in pub dining," said Marston's chief executive Ralph Findlay.

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