Pub firm Marston's boosted by improving economy as profits rise

LONDON Thu May 15, 2014 4:22am EDT

LONDON May 15 (Reuters) - British pub and brewing company Marston's said an improving economy and its expansion into new family focused pub-restaurants had helped it to report a first-half profit rise and strong sales growth since then.

Marston's, which has a 1,800 strong estate of managed, franchised and leased pubs and is also known for beer brands such as Pedigree and Hobgoblin, said underlying pretax profit for the 26 weeks to April 5 rose to 29 million pounds ($49 million).

Like many rivals, Marston's is repositioning its estate, selling or franchising drink-led tenanted pubs that have lost out to cheaper supermarket offers, and investing in new managed, food-focused ones that appeal to more price-conscious families.

First half revenue rose 4.5 percent to 374.3 million pounds, helped by 5.7 percent underlying growth at its self-managed pub restaurants where value food offers pulled in customers, and a 3.5 percent sales rise in its brewing arm, where demand for local and premium beers is growing.

Sales at its more drink-led managed, franchised and tenanted pubs, and leased division were both also up.

Marston's Chief Executive Ralph Findlay said as well as strong demand for pub dining, its estate was more widely benefiting from Britain's improving economic prospects.

"It does feel better across the UK, the economic recovery does seem to us to be improving... Wage growth being above inflation is clearly helpful, unemployment coming down is also very helpful," Findlay told Reuters.

Current trading for the five weeks to May 10 had also seen underlying sales up across its estate, the firm said.

Last year, Marston's set out a plan to build 25-30 new restaurant pubs a year, funded by the disposal of 400 underperforming sites for a total of 220 million pounds by 2016. It sold 286 pubs in its first half for 116 million pounds.

($1 = 0.5960 British Pounds) (Reporting by Neil Maidment; editing by Kate Holton)

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