By James Atkinson

Australian Liquor Marketers (ALM) owner, Metcash, confirmed its move into the hotel sector yesterday as the details of its initial pub transactions began to emerge.

TheShout understands that Metcash is close to finalising a joint venture acquisition of the Queen's Arms in Brisbane as well as another venue on the Gold Coast. The latter is tipped to be the Envy Hotel in Broadbeach, which has been listed on TheShout's Pub Sales site in recent weeks.

The company is also believed to be in the final throes of investing in a third pub on the mid-north coast of New South Wales.

However, Metcash has not appointed a broker to act on its behalf, despite reports to the contrary. The company is in fact working with various different agents.

Andrew Reitzer, Metcash CEO, yesterday said it was true Metcash was part of joint ventures acquiring stakes in hotels but it had not allocated $100 million to the project as reported in the mainstream press.

"We have set up joint ventures in the liquor industry in much the same way we have in grocery and hardware," he said. 

"Metcash is a wholesaler and will provide product to the hotels and the bottle shops acquired by the joint ventures."

It has emerged that Metcash's ALM business was wholesaler to nearly all of the 28 NSW pubs soaked up by the Woolworths-owned ALH Group in recent weeks.

But early signs are that Metcash's strategy in the hotels sector will be very different to that of the supermarkets. It is not interested in being a huge owner of pubs or in poker machines.

Rather, it is looking to partner with and support independent hoteliers who will buy volume through ALM's distribution network and increase its retail footprint in the form of Cellarbrations and Bottle-O stores.

"The joint ventures will provide competition to the major grocery chains that dominate and are seeking to further expand their dominance of the hotel industry," Reitzer said.

"They will allow customers of Metcash, being independent retailers, to grow their liquor businesses, and will protect independent hoteliers from the creeping acquisitions by the large supermarket chains."

Metcash's move into hotels has come under fire from activist organisation GetUp and independent MP Nick Xenophon, who claim it is doing so to profit from gaming machines.

But industry analysts have pointed out that if Metcash had any interest in poker machines, investing in a pub that is minutes from Jupiters Casino would be a very strange decision indeed.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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