Pub group Marston's has lifted underlying pre-tax profit by 5% to £29.2m for the first half of the year to 2 April and seen good trading over Easter.
The company, which has around 2,150 pubs, also saw revenues increase on the same period last year by 2.8% to £317.9m.
Chief executive Ralph Findlay said: "The performance of the group in the first half year has been encouraging, despite challenging market conditions and the severe weather in December, and this has continued with good trading over the Easter period. Our focused and disciplined strategy, offering consumers value for money in well-invested pubs, together with sector-leading shares in the growth segments of the beer market, places us in a strong position for the future."
Managed pubs Like-for-like sales at Marston's Inns and Taverns, the company's managed pub division, comprising almost 500 pubs, were up 2.4% with operating profit up 3.9%. Eight new-build pubs have been completed in the year to date and like-for-like food sales have risen 5% and now represent 41% of sales. Meanwhile, average food spend is up to £6.24 per head, thanks to increased sales of desserts and starters.
Current trading in the 32 weeks to 14 May saw managed sales rise 3.2% on a like-for-like basis, including food sales up 5% and wet sales up 2.7%. Like-for-like sales in the nine weeks to 14 May, including Mother's Day and Easter in both years, went up 5%.
Tenanted and leased pubs In the tenanted and leased pub estate, which comprised 1,660 pubs, total revenue increased by 4.5% to £85.9m. Underlying operating profit was £38.6m, an increase of 0.3%. Average profit per pub increased by 1.5%.
Around 220 pubs have been converted to Marston's retail agreement within the leased and tenanted estate, which allows licensees to use around 20% of turnover to pay themselves and staff, while Marston's buys everything centrally and pays all other bills. The company hopes to have converted 600 pubs to the retail agreement by 2013.
Marston's Beer Company Total revenue fell by 2.5% to £50.3m for the period, which Marston's blamed on the timing of Easter and lower standard lager volumes in the independent free trade. Underlying operating profit increased by 1.4% to £7.3m. Overall ale volumes were up 4% on last year, with premium ale volumes up 6%.
By Neil Gerrard
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