WELSH brewer SA Brain is reported to be close to selling the freeholds to scores of its pubs to a private equity firm.

At the end of 2020 it was announced Marston’s would operate 156 of the famous brewery's pubs across Wales on a combination of leased and management contract arrangements.

That deal came as the hospitality industry had struggled through months of closures and restrictions, due to the Covid lockdown, and was seen as ensuring the brand, which was established in Cardiff in 1882 would continue.

At the time the firms said the deal would secure 1,300 hospitality jobs in Wales and provide Brains with a rental income.

Sky News has reported that SA Brain is now close to agreeing a deal to offload approximately 100 pubs to Song Capital and Cerberus Capital Management, the former owner of Admiral Taverns.

The deal being reported would mean the ownership of the pub buildings would be owned by the private equity firms and it is expected the pubs, on which Marston's holds long term leases, would continue to trade.

"Pub industry sources said on Friday that a transaction could be signed in the coming days," reported Sky News City Editor Mark Kleinman.

Plaid Cymru Senedd Member for South Wales Central Rhys ab Owen said he was concerned what the deal would mean for Brains' long term future.

The National Wales: Brains was based at the former Welsh Brewers site, on the banks of the Taff, until 2019 Picture: Huw Evans AgencyBrains was based at the former Welsh Brewers site, on the banks of the Taff, until 2019 Picture: Huw Evans Agency

He said: "It is such an iconic Welsh brand which seems to be disappearing.

"I can remember as a kid going to town on a Saturday morning or a Sunday and you could just smell the hops, it was such an iconic smell for Cardiff.

"It has been a huge part of Cardiff for well over a century and it's sad to see so much of it being sold off. It doesn't seem pubs are part of its future but it would be nice to know what Brains see as their future really."

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According to Sky News Song Capital was established by Daniel MacKinnon and Tom Pritchard, two real estate executives and that Mr MacKinnon previously worked with Alan McIntosh, the founder of Punch Taverns.

"The transaction, which is thought to be valued in the region of £100m, will generate substantial proceeds for Brains' family shareholders, with the funds expected to be used to pay down debt," reported Sky News.

"The pub freeholds being acquired by Song Capital and Cerberus are understood to represent the core of the Brains pub estate, leaving the company as a family-owned brewer with a small residual pub portfolio."

The National Wales: Brains sponsored the Welsh rugby during the recent golden age that featured stars such as Lee Byrne, Gavin Henson and Shane Williams Picture: Huw Evans AgencyBrains sponsored the Welsh rugby during the recent golden age that featured stars such as Lee Byrne, Gavin Henson and Shane Williams Picture: Huw Evans Agency

It is understood since the deal with Marston's was first announced the leasehold of some properties have also been sold while last October some landlords complained they were being asked to become self-employed.

Brains is one of Wales's best-known companies, having sponsored the Welsh rugby union team for several years.

READ MORE: Brains landlord says he has been forced out of pub over self-employment policy

Brains sold its brewery in Cardiff city centre in the late 1990s and moved to the former Welsh Brewers site near Cardiff Central railway station but in 2019 moved to a new purpose built Dragon Brewery at a Cardiff business park.

Avison Young, the real estate advisory firm, is understood to have been running the sale process.

The Brain SA group has around 200 pubs in total across Wales and England's south west.

Additional reporting by Twm Owen

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