Wednesday 17 July 2019

Wetherspoons beats UK pubs market

Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin. Photo: Bloomberg
Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin. Photo: Bloomberg
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

JD Wetherspoon, which has seven pubs in the Republic and four pubs in Northern Ireland and is also building a hotel in Dublin, has posted a solid rise in sales, bucking the trend in a UK pub market struggling to beat last year's World Cup summer.

The pub chain, led by outspoken Brexiteer Tim Martin, who went to school in the North, said like-for-like sales in the 10 weeks to July 7 were up 6.9pc, consistent with growth in the year to date of 6.7pc.

Total sales were up 6.9pc in recent weeks and 7.4pc in the year so far.

The numbers show strong growth against a tough backdrop, with several other operators reporting that disappointing weather since May and lack of the Fifa World Cup had hit sales compared with 2018.

The company, which operates 900-odd pubs in Britain and Ireland, has been seeing a surge in costs because of rising wages and property prices.

Initially called Martin's Free House, it has also been spending to upgrade facilities at its older pubs.

The efforts come even as the company faces rising debt levels. Net debt at the end of the financial year ending July 28 is expected to be about £745m (€827m), the company said, that is £5m more than its prior estimate in May.

To keep check on cost related to rent, it spent £71m buying the freeholds of pubs of which it was previously the tenant.

Wetherspoon said it expects to incur non-cash losses of about £3m in the current fiscal year as a result of disposals of underperforming pubs.

The chain recently opened its first city centre pub in Dublin, The Silver Penny, in a former church on Lower Abbey Street, close to the Abbey Theatre, after a €4m refurbishment.

Additional reporting Reuters

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