Pubs group Spirit scaled back its presence on the UK high street yesterday by selling a batch of city centre bars for £177 million.
Spirit has agreed a deal with private equity house Alchemy for the 178-strong portfolio which includes brands such as Bar Censa, Evolution, Henry's Cafe Bar, Norwegian Blue and Squares.
The sale was clinched five months after Spirit received an approach for the bars, which sparked a flurry of interest from other parties.
High street bars remain targets of private equity firms in spite of the consumer slowdown and cut-throat competition on price, with Urbium and Revolution vodka bar owner Inventive Leisure both attracting interest over the summer.
The sale to Tattershall Castle Group - a new company backed by Alchemy - comes less than a week after Spirit reported a 2.7 per cent rise in like-for-like sales during the three months to August 22.
Karen Jones, chief executive of Spirit, said: "This deal allows Spirit to focus on our core community and food-led pubs, which, as demonstrated by our trading figures, continue to gain real momentum."
Food sales at its Chef & Brewer and Two for One brands were up 6.5 per cent in the fourth quarter, while drink sales were ahead by 1.7 per cent in the period after Spirit extended the ranges on offer to customers to include popular lager brands such as Stella Artois.
The deal marks the latest overhaul of Spirit since it paid £2.5 billion for the pubs portfolio of Scottish & Newcastle in 2003.
It has sold the Premier Lodge chain of budget hotels to leisure Whitbread for £536 million last year, while 364 pubs were offloaded to the Globe Pub Company of property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz for £345 million in December.
Speculation has been mounting that Spirit is a takeover target of Punch Taverns. One recent report claimed the groups were in " detailed" talks about a £2.5 billion joint bid.