Woolworths already has a substantial hotel portfolio including a share in a major portfolio with Gold Coast and Melbourne based businessman Bruce Mathieson’s ALH Group.
Representatives from ALH, the Laundry Group and Woolworths neither confirmed or denied speculation of a discussion, which was reported in the AFR started about six months ago.
“Our position is always that we’ll look at good properties in good locations,” an ALH spokesman told the AFR. “There’s always a lot of speculation given the number of pub properties on the market at the moment.”
The reported plan suggest Woolworths and ALH would operate the hotels under long term leases, while the Laundy Group will retain freeholds of the NLG pubs, and any other hotels it offers, as part of the proposed joint venture.
The news comes as the federal government considers introducing mandatory pre-commitment limits on pokie machines – a move it is feared will take away the impulse gambling dollar, and cripple hospitality providers. On orders from Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie, the Labor government has promised to introduce the scheme in three years.
Woolworths and ALH own 12,000 electronic gaming machines, or about 6 per cent of the 200,000 available in Australia. The consortium is the largest poker machine operator in Australia.
Twenty of the hotels Laundy is looking to buy from NLG and Redcape include 400 machines. They include the Hotel Willoughby, the Eastwood Hotel, the Old Cortez, The Mount Annan Hotel, the Cremorne Hotel and the Livingstone Hotel.
Laundy already owns the Cat & Fiddle, Charing Cross (pictured) and Red Lion hotels.