Belfast Telegraph

Biggest pub group looking for European football boost

Pub giant Enterprise Inns said it was hoping for a boost from next month's Euro 2016 football tournament as it cheered "good progress" in its first half.

Britain's biggest pub group said the timing of Easter had hit trade briefly since the start of its second half, but that business had since bounced back, adding it expects trading to benefit from the month-long football championship.

Enterprise, which owns more than 5,000 pubs, posted flat underlying pre-tax profits of £57 million for the six months to the end of March.

On a bottom line basis, pre-tax profits rose to £40 million from £10 million a year earlier, when it was hit by hefty one-off costs.

Solihull-based Enterprise said it was braced for "disruption" after the introduction of legislation that will spell the end of tied pubs.

It is reshaping its business in preparation, saying last May it would sell up to 1,000 outlets over the next five years and boost the number of pubs it manages as a result of the Government legislation expected to come into force later this year.

The firm has lifted the number of pubs it manages to 75 and plans to have more than 100 of these outlets by the end of September.

It aims to boost this to 850 outlets by 2020. Managed pubs are owned by the group, rather than an individual landlord.

Enterprise is also building up a commercial property arm and said its portfolio has now grown to 264, with an average annual rental income of £59,000.

Simon Townsend, chief executive of Enterprise, said: " We are continuing to make good progress.

"Our leased and tenanted business is maintaining its growth momentum while the rapid expansion of our managed operations and commercial property portfolio is on track," he added.

Shares dropped 2% after the interim results.

Paul Hickman, analyst at Edison Investment Research, said: " Uncertainty remains over the upcoming MRO (market rent only) legislation expected later this year giving tenants the opportunity to potentially exit the beer tie at a rate of some 600 a year."

But he said Enterprise was " in a good position to manage this".