LONDON: Magners Irish Cider and Tennent’s Lager owner C&C will gain a stake in the UK pubs market with its acquisition of Admiral Taverns. The move echoes Dutch brewing giant Heineken’s acquisition of Punch Taverns last December, suggesting that brewers are attempting to simplify the route to market.

C&C, which owns both Magners (known as Bulmers in Ireland) and the quintessential Scottish lager Tennent’s, will acquire 47% of shares in Admiral Taverns for a cost of £37m, the Financial Times reported. The company owns and operates almost 900 establishments across mostly England and Wales.

In a statement on the minority acquisition, C&C CEO, Stephen Glancey said the purchase was an attractive opportunity for “a new long term investment in the important on-trade channel,” without great risks.

The move will also provide C&C’s brands with “improved distribution” in pubs across the UK, “with an opportunity to enhance on-trade penetration further over time”, Glancey added. All parties expect to complete the transaction by the end of November.

In December 2016, Heineken agreed to take over Punch Taverns, for the sum of £403m, in a move that managing director of Heineken UK, David Forde, described as a “huge vote of confidence in the ‘Great British pub’” following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

Only in August did the company receive the go-ahead from the Competitions and Markets Authority, following competition concerns. Naturally, brewer-owned pubs provide a strengthened, simplified route to market.

The mini-trend suggests a renewed interest from brewers in supporting the on-trade, which remains crucially important to brewers, despite a continued decline in volume sales from pubs, according to the British Beer & Pub Association.

Despite declining numbers, the strategy is typically about physical availability, an idea hinted at by AMV BBDO, which said of its recent work with Guinness owner Diageo, that having “swallowed the Kool-Aid of Byron Sharp”, the brand’s content efforts were increasingly designed to connect with the in-bar experience.

Data sourced from the Financial Times, C&C Group, The Guardian, BBC, British Beer & Pub Association; additional content by WARC staff.