THE pub group Marston’s – which owns some of Hampshire’s best-known watering holes as well as Ringwood Brewery – has sold 137 sites.

The £44.9milion deal with rival Admiral Taverns covers mainly smaller tenanted and franchised pubs which are drinks-led.

They are being sold as part of a plan for Marston’s to reduce its debts.

No list has yet been issued but a statement on behalf of Admiral Taverns said the deal included two pubs in Hampshire as well as five in Dorset.

Its pubs in Southampton include One O Four at Above Bar, the Cricketers Arms in Woolston, the Anchor at Redbridge and the George & Falcon in Warnford.

In Winchester, it has the Cricketers Inn, the Railway Inn and a Pitcher & Piano.

It also has the Chamberlayne at Eastleigh and the Sailmaker in Gosport.

At Ringwood, where Marston’s owns the brewery bearing the town’s name, it has the Inn on the Furlong and the Original White Hart, as well as the Woodman at nearby St Leonards.

Marston’s chief executive Ralph Findlay said yesterday: “We are making good progress with our plans to reduce our net debt by £200m by 2023, in part through the disposal of non-core assets.

“We are encouraged by the level of market interest that this portfolio of pubs has attracted.

“This further underpins our confidence in achieving the accelerated £70m disposal proceeds target that we have set ourselves for the current year.”

He added that the pubs being sold are primarily smaller tenanted and franchise sites which are drinks- or “wet-led”, generating £4.8m of underlying pre-tax profits.

But Marston’s insisted the deal would help average profit per pub increase by around seven per cent as it pushes towards a more premium offer.

Admiral said the deal was part of its strategy to integrate and develop “sustainable tenanted pub businesses”, coming just weeks after snapping up 150 pubs from the Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars business.

Chief executive Chris Jowsey, who joined from Star Pubs in the summer, said: “We remain fully committed to the leased and tenanted model and through this acquisition have been able to acquire an excellent portfolio of pubs which we look forward to developing through our award-winning and highly supportive approach.”

Admiral Taverns’ existing Hampshire pubs include the Angel Inn, the Windsor Castle and the Bricklayers Arms in Southampton, as well as the Good Intent in Fareham and the Eagle in Gosport.