Thursday 27 October 2016

Wetherspoon hits out at planned UK minimum wage hike as profits fall by £20m

John Ficenec

Published 11/09/2015 | 08:50

JD Wetherspoon
JD Wetherspoon

Pubs giant JD Wetherspoon has reported a £20m slump in full-year profits as the falling value of underperforming pubs hit annual results.

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Wetherspoon also reiterated comments made in July that Britain's new higher minimum wage would put unsustainable pressure on a pub industry already struggling with taxes and competition.

Revenues in the 52 weeks to July 26 climbed to £1.51bn from £1.41bn a year earlier, while pre-tax-profits fell to £58.7m from £78.4m.

Profits were hit by a £13m charge that was largely due to the falling value of underperforming pubs in the property portfolio. Excluding this and other one-off costs, pre-tax profits before exceptional items was down 2pc to £77.8m.

Trading at the pub group was also hit by the breakfast price war it launched earlier this year, as it turned up the heat in a battle with the coffee chains.

In May the group slashed the price of a fry-up to £2.99 and a cup of filter coffee to 99p to tackle the rise of coffee shops and casual dining chains.

The low-cost offering was a factor in reducing the group’s operating margin by 90 basis-point to 7.4pc, from 8.3pc a year earlier.

The company said trade in its new 2015/16 fiscal year would benefit from an improving economy and new openings. But that would likely be offset by margin pressure from higher wages, pub improvements and supermarket competition, meaning profits would be similar to, or slightly above, that achieved in 2014/15.

Tim Martin, Wetherspoon’s founder and chairman, also used the results as another opportunity to campaign for a cut on VAT levied on food sold in pubs.

"As we have previously stated, we believe that pubs are taxed excessively and that the government would create more jobs and receive higher levels of overall revenue, if it were to create tax equality among supermarkets, pubs and restaurants," said Mr Martin.

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