The private equity firm which has agreed to buy 1,400 pubs owned by Punch Taverns has set its sights on another big takeover in the sector with a bid to buy rival Admiral Taverns.
Sky News has learnt that Patron Capital Partners is among a number of parties which have tabled offers to buy Admiral, the owner of more than 1,000 pubs.
The auction of Admiral, which is owned by Cerberus, another investment firm, is at an early stage, and is said to have attracted interest from several suitors.
The identities of the other bidders was unclear on Wednesday.
Patron’s interest is notable because it is close to concluding a joint takeover with Heineken of Punch, which has a portfolio of more than 3,300 pubs.
Under their plans, Heineken would control 1,900 of the sites, with Patron owning the remainder.
If completed, the deal would make Heineken the third-biggest pub operator in Britain behind Greene King and Enterprise Inns.
However, competition regulators have expressed concerns about the Dutch brewer’s proposed acquisition, prompting it to offer to sell pubs in 33 areas across the UK in order to avoid a more detailed probe.
“The CMA has decided that there are reasonable grounds for believing that these proposals, or a modified version of them, might be acceptable to remedy the competition concerns it has identified,” the Competition and Markets Authority said last month.
It is likely to make a final judgement by 22 August.
Patron’s interest in Punch has not aroused similar concerns because it does not already control a significant chunk of the UK pubs sector.
Sources indicated that Patron, which owns several independent businesses in the hotels industry in Britain, would not necessarily seek to combine Admiral with the Punch business it is trying to acquire.
Admiral, which owns an estate of about 1,000 ‘wet-led’ pubs, has been owned by Cerberus since the beginning of 2013, when it was sold by Lloyds Banking Group.
The pub company was one of a swathe of private businesses ending up in the ownership of a major high street bank following a debt-for-equity swap undertaken after the financial crisis of 2008.
Lloyds sold Admiral for about £200m, with reports at the time suggesting that the deal had crystallised a £500m loss for the bank.
Sapient Corporate Finance is handling the Admiral auction process.
Patron declined to comment on Wednesday.