Wetherspoon ‘confident’ over prospects

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PUB chain JD Wetherspoon posted an 8.5 per cent rise in first-half profit and said it was confident in its prospects for the year after a strong start to the second half.

The firm, which has grown to over 900 pubs on demand for its popular food and drinks deals, said profit before tax and exceptional items for the 26 weeks to January 26 rose to £37.8m, up from £34.8m a year ago.

First half revenue rose 9.1 per cent to £683.2m, with sales at pubs open over a year up 5.2 per cent in the half.

The firm said that momentum had extended into the first six weeks of its second half with underlying sales up 6.7 per cent.

The group’s first half operating margin fell 10 basis points to 8.2 per cent, within its guidance of 8.1 per cent to 8.3 per cent for the year. This represents a fall from 8.7 per cent in 2012-13 due to investment in IT, staff and training ahead of expansion.

Wetherspoon, which will open its first pubs in the Republic of Ireland in 2014, is aiming for between 40 and 50 new UK openings in 2013-14, a rate it said in January it expects to achieve for the next decade or so, as it continues it focus on growing sales over margins.

The firm said it was confident of a “reasonable outcome” for the full-year.

Wetherspoons opened pubs in Whitby, Selby, Yeadon, Sowerby Bridge, Hemsworth and Chapeltown last year. The group has identified new sites in Wakefield, Beverley, Bramley, Saltaire, Malton, Morley, Headingley, Leeds, Sheffield, Northallerton, Pontefract and Holmfirth.