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Mitchells & Butlers' boss demands political certainty as profits weather 'challenging' conditions

By James Pugh | Birmingham | Business | Published:

Pub giant Mitchells & Butlers has hailed a "strong" year after investment across its sites helped to boost sales despite "challenging" conditions in the sector.

Mitchells & Butlers brands include Vintage Inns and Toby Carvery

The Birmingham-based company, which has sites across the West Midlands, saw like-for-like sales jump 3.5 per cent in the year to September, as total revenues rose to £2.23 billion.

It also saw pre-tax profit for the year increase, rising by 36 per cent to £177 million for the 12-month period.

Nevertheless, the All Bar One owner said sales growth has slowed to 1.4 per cent for the most recent seven weeks due to wet weather.

The group said that performance was boosted by its programme of investment into refurbishments, with 240 of its 1,748 pubs being "remodelled" during the year.

Phil Urban, chief executive of the pub group, said he believed the investment has put the company in a "stronger position" as it moves forward into the new financial year, while it expects challenging market conditions to continue.

Food sales across the business jumped 3.4 per cent, while drinks sales increased by 3.2 per cent, driven by increased spend per customer.

The Toby Carvery owner noted that the dining industry has continued to be impacted by "rising costs" and "supply which has outstripped demand" over the year.

It said the return to profit growth highlighted "significant progress" given the inflationary headwinds weighing on the sector.

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Mr Urban said industry has spent the year weighed down by consumer uncertainty and the "last thing" he would want in next month's election is a hung parliament.

He said: "The worst outcome would be another hung parliament and no decision-making for the foreseeable future.

"We would want whichever government is voted in to see hospitality as the important employer, key sector in the UK, which it is."

Mr Urban also said he believed the recent surge in the company's share price has returned it to a "fair valuation after years of being undervalued".

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Pub groups have seen their share prices lift higher in recent months after rivals Greene King and Ei Group were snapped up by private firms earlier in 2019.

The pub boss added: "These strong results reflect the work we have done over the last few years, first to build sustained sales growth and then to convert that into profit growth.

"It has been extremely encouraging to see an improvement in like-for-like sales growth across the portfolio during the year, fuelled by our Ignite programme of work."

It said it has also invested to improve its technology over the year, including the launch of an app and increasing its delivery service through Just Eat and Deliveroo to 273 sites.

James Pugh

By James Pugh
@JamesP_Star

Shropshire Star Business and Farming Editor.

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