Marston's slumps to heavy loss but remains hopeful following reopenings

Pub group Marston's slumped to a £105.5 million pre-tax loss in the 26 weeks to April 3 as the lockdown and restrictions during the winter months hit hard.

Ralph Findlay, Marston’s CEO
Ralph Findlay, Marston’s CEO

But bosses at the Wolverhampton-based firm, which has pubs across Shropshire and the West Midlands, said they are hopeful for a strong summer as restrictions ease and have seen early indications that the future for the business is bright.

Since reopening to customers for outdoors drinking last month – and subsequently welcoming them indoors this week – bosses said sales have been at 80 per cent of pre-Covid levels.

As a result, profits since reopening are likely to be flat, reversing the heavy losses suffered during the year, as the business takes advantage of the continued business rates and VAT relief.

Marston's said 710 pubs were reopened for outdoor trading on April 12 in England, with 66 more on April 26, whilst 145 were opened in Wales and Scotland on the same day.

But bosses said more normalised levels of trading will not be achieved until social distancing restrictions are removed next month under the Government's road map.

Revenues during the six month period to April 3 dropped £343.3 million to just £55.1 million, although the balance sheet was boosted by £291 million from the sale of Marston's brewing business.

CEO Ralph Findlay said “Despite the challenges of the last year, the actions we have taken have ensured that Marston’s has emerged a stronger and more focused business with a substantially strengthened balance sheet, a 40 per cent stake in Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company and a clear vision for the future.

"This is my last set of results as chief executive officer and I am confident that the business is in an excellent position to execute its strategy and deliver a return to growth as the country recovers from the pandemic.

“Whilst still early days, trading has been encouraging since we were permitted to open our doors for outdoor trading last month and it has been fantastic to have our teams back in the business, doing what they do best, and welcoming customers back into our pubs.

"Our recent strategic investment in additional outdoor trading areas ahead of reopening has enabled us to capitalise on the clear pent-up consumer demand for the pub. We look forward to all trading restrictions being removed next month which signals a return to some semblance of normality."

Last week, Marston's announced Andrew Andrea will replace Mr Findlay as CEO with effect from October 3.

“I am delighted to hand over the reins of chief executive officer to Andrew Andrea later this year and am confident that both Marston’s – and its talented team of people – will be in extremely able hands under his stewardship.

"He shares the passion I have for this very special business and brings with him invaluable experience and knowledge of both Marston’s and the pub sector, having been instrumental in shaping the group’s strategy to date.

"Marston’s has a great opportunity ahead and I look forward to seeing the group go from strength to strength as it embarks on the next exciting stage of its development," Mr Findlay added.

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