Punch is bracing itself for the possible ill effects of a planned 2.5% hike in VAT and rising unemployment owing to the Government's austerity measures.
In an interim management statement for the 44 weeks to 26 June 2010, Punch warned that it faced an "uncertain" trading outlook and called on the Government to remove the RPI+2% beer duty escalator. "This combined with the announced 2.5% VAT increase in 2011 will put futher unecessary pressure on the pub trade," the company said.
Punch said that it had seen a "marked" variation in seasonal trends for the year so far, with good weather in May and June, as well as the World Cup, helping to make up for frezzing weather in January.
Average outlet EBITDA per pub was down 5% in the company's leased and tenanted division. Punch said profits were under pressure from lower drinks margins, combined with reduced rental income.
In its managed division, like-for-like sales for the period were 2.7% below the year before. But the firm indicated that the figure reflected improved trading form the half year, when sales were down 3.4%.
So far this year, Punch has disposed of 748 leased and 29 managed pubs, generating proceeds of £230m and £33m respectively. The company expects net disposal proceeds by the end of the year to reach around £300m. Net debt at the firm as at 26 June stood at £3.2b.
By Neil Gerrard
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