Pub group Marston's sales rebound on Christmas cheer

(Reuters) - Marston's Plc MARS.L on Friday posted 4.5% growth in like-for-like sales during the two-week Christmas holiday period, helping the pub operator rebound from subdued business in early December when wet weather kept Britons indoors.

The festive season, including Christmas and New Year, has provided a much-needed boost to the sector, with pub owners Mitchells & Butlers MAB.L and J D Wetherspoon JDW.L also posting impressive performance updates for the period.

“Marston’s has delivered a creditable performance in a challenging market. Trading in the key Christmas fortnight was good and has remained solid which is encouraging,” Chief Executive Officer Ralph Findlay said.

Marston’s, the two-century old brewer of Pedigree, Hobgoblin and Lancaster Bomber beers that runs 1,400 pubs, said total managed and franchise like-for-like sales rose 1% for the 16-week period to Jan. 18.

But British pub operators and restaurant chains have had to weather steep costs on the back of higher wages and energy bills.

Marston’s said the recently announced increase in minimum wages were higher than anticipated, adding that it would increase costs in the second half by an additional 2 million pounds ($2.63 million) to 3 million pounds.

The company has been looking to sell pubs to cut debt after posting lower earnings in its last fiscal year. To that end, it increased the targeted proceeds from such disposals to 85-90 million pounds from 70 million pounds that was set in November.

Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva, Bernard Orr