Japanese bank Nomura looks set to become the UK's biggest off licence owner following a deal to buy First Quench. The group has been up for sale almost since the moment Punch beat Whitbread to acquire Allied Domecq Retailing last September. This left Whitbread and Punch each holding 50% of First Quench ­ which has 2,500 stores under various names including Wine Rack, Thresher, Victoria Wine and Bottoms Up ­ a situation neither was happy with. They have now accepted the £225m offer from Nomura which should be finalised next month. It is subject to the approval of the competition authorities. Scottish Courage marketing director Brian Sharp said: "The specialist off licence sector has not fared too well over the last six months. "It may be with clear lines of communication and focused management that First Quench will pick up. "A healthy specialist off licence sector has got to be a good thing." A spokesman for Nomura said: "There is an opportunity to invest in the estate and on IT in the shops and to reinvigorate the management team." He gave no hints on staffing changes but said in the companies that Nomura had acquired staff levels had gone up not down. "We have not bought the business to cut costs we have bought it to grow the earnings. All our investments take a long-term view." {{NEWS }}