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Punch Taverns sells off 300 pubs as shareholder urges it to turn off taps

SCHOCHRODERS fund manager Andrew Brough has said that pubs group Punch Taverns should consider winding up the business over the next 18 months.<br /><br />Brough, who owns a 3.4 per cent stake in the pub group through his Schroder Mid 250 fund, said it would be in investors&rsquo; interests if the struggling pub group called time on its pubs &ldquo;pay back its debts and return whatever&rsquo;s left to shareholders&rdquo;.<br /><br />Yesterday Punch Taverns put more than 300 of its pubs from its turnaround division on the market. <br /><br />The pubs, some of which have previously been on the market, are spread throughout the country, with 90 per cent of the sites under freehold.<br /><br />Punch Taverns said: &ldquo;Some of these sites have already been on the market but they are being relaunched through Christie, many at revised prices, to stimulate interest and secure buyers.&rdquo;<br /><br />Neil Morgan, Christie&rsquo;s head of pubs, said: &ldquo;We expect the majority of these pubs to continue to be operated as licensed premises, although a significant number will provide ideal alternative-use opportunities across the residential, commercial and retail sectors.&rdquo; <br /><br />Earlier this year Punch launched a &pound;350m rights issue to pay down some of its &pound;4bn debt mountain.<br /><br />Evolution Securities analyst Nigel Parson yesterday moved his recommendation from &ldquo;sell&rdquo; to &ldquo;buy&rdquo;.