ACCC to rule on Woolies pub deal as buyers return

THE Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is due to reveal its finding on the proposed $500 million joint venture between the Laundy family and Woolworths today, which is tipped to get the green light.

THE Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is due to reveal its finding on the proposed $500 million joint venture between the Laundy family and Woolworths today, which is tipped to get the green light.

The deal, comprising 32 pubs across NSW, was due to be settled by the start of next week but over the past six months the ACCC has continued to request information, mainly from Woolworths.

If the ACCC allows the deal to go ahead, Woolworths will assume ownership of the pubs which include the Chittaway Tavern and Ocean Beach Hotel on the central coast and the Albion Park and the Charles Hotel near Wollongong.

In November 2010, retailer Gerry Harvey, also teamed up the Laundy family, John Singleton and developer Robert Whyte, to buy the Steyne Hotel in Manly. The high-profile consortium was understood to have paid about $27 million for the pub. It is still to be decided if the pub will be included in the Woolworths deal.

The deal has taken close to three years to complete and was successfully negotiated by Stuart Laundy, the son of founder Arthur.

The ACCC had concerns over the deal, which included the Caringbah Hotel, and the fact that Woolworths owns a majority of the ALH Group, which also owns a substantial number of pub leases across the country.

Woolworths and the Laundy Group jointly paid $40 million for the Caringbah Hotel in February this year through Andrew Jolliffe of Ray White Hotels Australia from the Bayfield family. The deal comes at a time when the pub industry continues to go through significant change.

It has been hit with new gaming tax rules, a tightening of smoking regulations and a swath of bad debts as new investors overpaid for pubs and were forced into receivership. However, more seasoned players have returned and deals are being completed at more realistic prices.

One of the most recent sales was by Sam Handy of Jones Lang LaSalle, who this week sold the Great Southern Hotel in Berry yesterday for $2.7 million to a private investor. He said demand was still strong for well-managed and well-located pubs.

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