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Pub giant reassurance for tenant deposit worry

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: January 27, 2014

Punch Tavern's offices, Wellington Road

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BOSSES at a Burton-based pub giant has responded to calls for reassurance for tenants if the firm were to go into administration if a major restructuring deal is not accepted.

Stephen Billingham, Punch executive chairman, has written to Save the Pub Group chairman MP Greg Mulholland after he expressed concerns over the future of pub tenants if a planned overhaul of the firm was not to go ahead.

Mr Mulholland raised his fears as part of an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons, just weeks after the Centrum 100 firm outlined plans to secure its future by reorganising its debt.

Mr Mullholland said: “The concerns are that if Punch are forced into administration, with or without a debt restructure, there will be insufficient funds to reimburse or transfer deposits to new freeholders and the tenants will become unsecured creditors to Punch in administration, while having a continual obligation to fund a new security deposit with a new freeholder.”

Mr Billingham responded by saying: “The board believes that the restructuring proposals will, if implemented, provide a robust platform for our business going forward.

“In particular, they will ensure the current structure of the Punch Group is preserved, and deliver a materially better position for all stakeholders than a default – something that is clearly in the interests of our partners.”

He added that a failure to return the deposits would risk ‘irreparably damaging’ the reputation of the firm.

This comes just weeks after the firm were forced to write to Prime Minister David Cameron to refute accusations made against them by the same MP during a debate in the House of Commons.

Bosses were forced to act after Mr Mulholland accused the firm of ‘clear market manipulation’ as he claimed the firm had been overcharging pubgoers for beer over the last 10 years in their pubs.

The prime minister said he would ‘look very carefully’ at the claim that drinkers had paid £4.3bn more than they should have done at Punch Taverns pubs.

Andy Slee, central operations director for Punch Taverns, said: “This is the latest in a series of wild accusations from an MP who is intent doing damage to an industry that is on the road to recovery.

“There is no truth to what Mr Mulholland says, as there is no legitimate industry source for the type of data he has quoted to the House. We challenge him to produce robust and independent evidence.”

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