THE pub group Marston’s – which owns some of Dorset’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.

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

A long list of Marston’s pubs in Bournemouth include the Libertine and the Porterhouse in Westbourne and the Fiveways in Charminster.

In Poole, its pubs include the New Inn, the George Hotel, the Foundry Arms, the New Star at Rossmore and the Victoria Cross in Parkstone.

In Christchurch, it has the Stourvale and in Wimborne the White Hart.

Marston's chief executive Ralph Findlay said: "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 is 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.