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Nomura buys First Quench for 225m

Published:  23 July, 2008

Japanese investment bank snaps up the UK's largest specialist off-licence chain

Nomura, the Japanese investment bank, has bought First Quench, the UK's largest specialist chain of off-licences. The 2,500-strong chain which includes Thresher's, Victoria Wine, Bottoms Up and Wine Rack, is believed to be priced at 225 million. The long-awaited sale follows the stated intentions of First Quench's joint owners, Whitbread and Punch Taverns, that both wished to sell the chain. The group posted sales of approximately 1.3 billion last year. Whitbread, having recently sold its brewing division, is concentrating on its restaurant chains, hotels and health clubs. Punch Taverns bought Allied-Domecq's retail interests last year, ironically in a bitterly contested battle with Whitbread. Punch wanted the 3,500 pubs, but not the off-licences. Nomura's Principal Finance Group is Britain's largest pub landlord with about 4,800 tenanted pubs. Guy Hands, managing director of the group, is quoted as saying: "The acquisition of First Quench is a good deal for all concerned. First Quench is not a core business of either Whitbread or Punch. Based on our track record with similar consumer-facing businesses, we believe that First Quenchs full potential can be realised by empowering the management and investing in staff and technology." First Quench was formed in August 1998 as a result of the merger of the off-licence interests of Allied Domecq and Whitbread, Victoria Wine and Thresher.