Belfast Telegraph

Wetherspoon half-year profits ‘ahead of expectations’

By Kalyeena Makortoff

JD Wetherspoon, which has four bars in Northern Ireland, said profits were ahead of expectations after better-than-expected sales, but warned that “significant costs” would weigh on its performance over the remainder of the year.

The pub chain — which was recently refused a drinks licence for a new pub on Belfast’s Royal Avenue — said like-for-like sales rose 6% in the 25 weeks to January 21, with total sales climbing by 4.3%. 

Those figures were mirrored in its second quarter results on both a like-for-like and total sales basis, helping boost profits for the period. 

“As a result of better-than-expected sales, year-to-date underlying profit before tax is slightly ahead of our expectations,” the company said, but warned that growth was likely to slow. 

“Similar outperformance in the second half will be more difficult to achieve,” it added. 

Chairman Tim Martin, who was educated here, said: “We face significant costs in the second half in areas which include labour, business rates and the sugar tax. 

“There will also be some uncertainty as to the effects on our business of the Fifa World Cup. Nevertheless, given better-than-expected year-to-date sales, we currently anticipate a slightly improved trading outcome for this financial year.”

The pub group said it “remains in a sound financial position”, though year-end net debt is expected to be around £30m higher than it was at the end of the last financial year.

Earlier this month the company was refused a drinks licence for a bar in a former JJB Sports shop on Royal Avenue.

It shelled out around £15m on buying the freeholds of pubs where it was previously a tenant and bought £51m worth of shares from shareholders. As part of its update, JD Wetherspoon said it had opened three new pubs but sold off 10, with plans under way to open approximately 10 pubs by the end of the financial year.

Mr Martin used the latest trading update to launch fresh criticism of two trade bodies — the Confederation of British Industry and the British Retail Consortium — over their assertion that food prices are likely to rise in the wake of Brexit. 

He has been an outspoken proponent of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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