* Like-for-like net income down 4.4 pct in first 17 weeks
* Net debt expected to fall 0.2 bln stg to 2.5 bln stg in full year
* Mitchells & Butler lfl sales down 0.3 pct in 17 weeks to Jan. 26
LONDON, Jan 31 (Reuters) - British pub group Enterprise Inns is targeting like-for-like growth in the second half of the year after bad weather hit sales during the first 17 weeks of trading.
The company, which has about 6,000 pubs across Britain but is saddled with 2.7 billion pounds ($4.26 billion) of debt, said that total net income fell 4.4 percent, or 5 million pounds, in the 17 weeks to Jan. 26 as bad weather either side of a strong Christmas period hit sales.
The group, which has reduced its estate significantly in recent years to raise cash and reduce its borrowings, said net debt would fall to 2.5 billion during the year and that it is on track to raise 150 million pounds through further disposals.
“Despite a challenging start, our target is to return the business to like-for-like net income growth in the second half of the year,” the company said on Thursday.
Shares in the group closed at 98.7 pence on Wednesday, up 68 percent on six months ago, valuing the business at 500 million pounds.
British pubs and restaurants group Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) , also reporting on Thursday, said that a recent cold snap combined with customers reining in spending after Christmas had eaten into sales growth secured over the festive period.
Like-for-like sales at the owner of the All Bar One, Harvester and O‘Neill’s chains fell 0.3 percent in the 17 weeks to Jan. 26, compared with a 4.4 percent rise a year ago.
Food sales rose 0.5 percent but drink sales fell 1.3 percent in the period.
M&B said that it did not expect economic conditions to become any less challenging over the next 12 months but remained confident of performing well over the year.
Shares in M&B, which is majority owned by billionaire currency trader and Tottenham Hotspur owner Joe Lewis, closed at 296 pence on Wednesday, valuing the firm at about 1.2 billion pounds.