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Marston’s cheers ‘promising’ Christmas bookings but drops to loss

Marston’s has cheered another rise in sales (Marston’s/PA)
Marston’s has cheered another rise in sales (Marston’s/PA)

Pub giant Marston’s has reported “promising” Christmas bookings after a jump in sales, but also slumped to a loss for the past year.

The company, which owns 1,414 pubs across the UK, told shareholders on Tuesday morning that bookings for the key Christmas period have been “tracking ahead of last year”.

William Rucker, chairman of the Wolverhampton-based firm, said consumer demand has remained “resilient” despite the challenging economic backdrop.

Marston’s said positive trading momentum has continued in recent months, with like-for-like sales up 7.4% since September 30.

It came as the group recorded a 9.1% rise in revenues to £872.3 million over the year to September 30.

However, the company fell to a £20.7 million pre-tax loss for the year after it was impacted by interest rate swap movements and charges linked to weaker property valuations, compared with a £163.4 million profit a year earlier.

Meanwhile, underlying profits for the year were £35.5 million, up from £27.7 million a year earlier.

Justin Platt
Justin Platt will take over as Marston’s chief executive officer in January (Marston’s/PA)

The update comes just weeks after Marston’s announced the immediate departure of its previous chief executive Andrew Andrea.

Mr Andrea, who led the business for two years, will be replaced by Justin Platt from Alton Towers operator Merlin Entertainment in January.

Mr Platt will be charged with improving costs and reducing borrowing at the business in order to bring it back to sustainable profit.

In October, the firm said it planned to cut a number of head office jobs in order to help save £5 million amid pressure from rising costs.

On Tuesday, the group said it was looking to save a further £3 million due to reductions in its energy costs and pub labour costs in the current financial year.

It is also seeking to reduce its borrowing levels in the longer term and said it will sell around £50 million worth of “non-core” pub assets to help achieve this.

Mr Rucker said: “The consumer has remained resilient despite the macro backdrop and Marston’s continues to trade well, achieving market outperformance.

“We anticipate an improving outlook in which cost headwinds are largely abating and like-for-like sales are up over 7% since the year-end.

“This, together with the actions we have taken this year to drive further efficiencies, leave us confident that Marston’s remains well-placed to continue to outperform and to grow revenue, margin and profitability.”

Shares were down 3.4% on Tuesday afternoon following the update.