Wetherspoon back in profit as Britons' lap up Welsh vodka, cocktails and ale

Wetherspoon's logos are seen at the entrance to a pub in central London
Wetherspoon's logos are seen at the entrance to a pub in central London, Britain January 23, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
  • H1 profit of 4.6 mln stg vs 21.3 mln year earlier loss
  • Sales in seven weeks to March 19 9.1% above 2019 levels
  • Shares up 12%

March 24 (Reuters) - Britons' taste for cocktails, Welsh vodka and real ale helped pubs group J D Wetherspoon (JDW.L) return to profit in the first half of its financial year, boosting its shares.

Wetherspoon was "cautiously optimistic" on its outlook for the year ahead despite high inflation, which has pushed up labour, food and energy costs for British pubs and restaurants.

The company's shares rose as much as 12% to a near nine-month high.

"Cocktails are selling well. Au Vodka from Swansea of all places is more fashionable than David Beckham," Chairman Tim Martin told Reuters on Friday, referring to the British vodka brand, based in Swansea in Wales.

Martin also said older customers, who had previously not been going out as much, had "returned from hibernation".

He said ales such as Abbott and Doom Bar were popular among customers, while Brewdog's Punk IPA was doing very well.

The pub chain, sometimes referred to as "Spoons", is known for its competitive prices.

"Its tried and tested value offer is holding it in good stead and there's no sign of punters deserting the boozers despite the continuing cost-of-living crisis," Derren Nathan, analyst Hargreaves Lansdown said in a note.

British inflation unexpectedly rose to 10.4% in February, pushed up by higher food and drink prices in pubs and restaurants.

Wetherspoon reported profit of 4.6 million pounds ($5.7 million) in the 26 weeks ended Jan. 29 versus a loss of 21.3 million in a year earlier.

It said sales in the seven weeks to March 19 were 9.1% above 2019 levels and 14.9% above a year earlier.

($1 = 0.8149 pounds)

Reporting by Radhika Anilkumar in Bengaluru; editing by Rashmi Aich, Jason Neely and Jane Merriman

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