January 14, 2014 / 12:01 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 1-Strong Christmas demand lifts Spirit Pub sales

By Esha Vaish

Jan 14 (Reuters) - Strong Christmas period trading helped Britain's Spirit Pub Company Plc report a 7 percent rise in like-for-like sales at its managed pubs for the three weeks to Jan. 4.

The company said it expected like-for-like sales in the business to rise about 3.3 percent in 2014 and anticipated modest growth in its leased business.

"We expect Spirit to trade well over the next seven months helped by favourable weather comparatives in January and March and the football World Cup in June and July," Panmure Gordon analyst Simon French said in a note.

Numis analyst Douglas Jack raised his price target on the company's stock to 110 pence from 100 pence.

Spirit Pub's shares, which rose as much as 2 percent in morning trading, were flat at 84.25 pence at 1147 GMT on the London Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

The company operates about 800 managed pubs and about 470 leased pubs under brands such as Chef & Brewer, Fayre & Square and Flaming Grill.

The company has outperformed its rivals in like-for-like sales growth over the past six months, according to data collected from 27 of Britain's larger pubs by market research company Coffer Peach Business Tracker.

Spirit Pub, which was spun off from Punch Taverns in 2011, said it did not expect discretionary consumer spending to rise in the next six months.

"Maybe after that, business confidence will flow through into consumer confidence but it will take time," Chief Executive Mike Tye told Reuters.

Like-for-like net sales at the company's managed pubs business, which accounts for nearly 90 percent of its revenue, were up 4.3 percent in the 20 weeks through Jan. 4.

The leased-estate business returned to growth. The company said it had sold 90 of the 100 properties it had earlier said it would sell. It plans to sell some more properties in 2014.

The company said it would purchase some pubs in the second half of 2014, but did not specify how many.

Rival Greene King Plc reported on Monday a 5 percent rise in underlying sales at its core managed pubs business in the six weeks to Jan. 13, citing a surge in sales in the holiday season.

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