Their valuations have halved over the last five years. Some analysts even point out that their current market capitalizations now underestimate the value of their real estate holdings. At Fuller, Smith & Turner and Young's, the discount has reached almost 50%.

However, there is a positive development on the horizon with Labour's victory in the forthcoming elections: the reform of business property tax, designed precisely to revitalize the local retail and restaurant sectors, which have been hard hit by rates that have become prohibitive.

Moreover, the situation of both groups has already improved since the end of the pandemic, partly because it provided the ideal cover to speed up the closure of the least profitable establishments. Both groups recently published record results.

Fuller, Smith & Turner, for one, returned £22 million to shareholders in the fiscal year just ended - against a ten-year average of around £15 million a year.

But growth is nil and profitability anemic. In the light of these factors, the market capitalization of £405 million - plus the £200 million in net debt that comes with it - seems rather rational, if not relatively generous.

More aggressively acquisitive, Young's boasts better growth and higher margins overall. The trade-off is a much higher capital intensity than its competitor, as well as greater financial leverage.

Profitability is nonetheless anemic, and the volume of capital returned to shareholders each year significantly lower. So it's not clear that a market capitalization of £482 million - plus the £370 million in net debt that goes with it - is easy to justify.

In short, the stock market correction observed by both groups in recent years is hardly surprising. However, there has been a slight upturn in investor interest recently, due to Labour's probable victory, and especially in favor of Fuller, Smith & Turner.

The latter, it's true, has reduced its debt and embarked on a share repurchase program that has been hailed by analysts. Its discount to shareholders' equity has therefore fallen significantly in comparison with Young's, which must now digest its acquisitions and prove that it is capable of making them profitable.

In any case, in the absence of growth, the market will keep a close eye on the ability of these groups to return capital to their shareholders. But their room for maneuver is limited - as the price of a pint remains a make-or-break proposition for pubs.