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Bad weather can't derail Marston's
by Sarah Modlock - 28/01/2011
"The outlets of Marston's provided a haven for Britons in the cold snap, with the pub and brewery group reporting an in-line performance over the period."
In the 16 weeks to 22 January, its managed pubs division saw like-for-like sales rise 2.1%, with sales of food notching up like-for-like growth of 4.4%. Sales of alcohol, soft drinks and hot drinks rose 1.2% on a like-for-like basis.
Like-for-like sales in the festive period, running from 23 December to 3 January, were up 11.2%, with the division's operating margin slightly ahead of the year before.
The FTSE 250 firm said underlying profit trends have continued to improve in its less-successful tenanted pubs arm. Like-for-like profits are estimated to be around 1% below last year, which compares favourably to the 4% decline in financial year 2010.
It pointed to the continuing successful rollout of the franchise-style retail agreement, now operating in 160 pubs for the turnaround.
On the brewery side, beer volumes were up 6% versus last year - a performance in stark contrast to the UK ale market which is down by around 7%.
The group said its "focus on localness and premium ale continues to drive growth, with premium cask ale up 4% and bottled ale up 20% in the period."
Net debt and cash flow are in line with expectations, the company added.
The group expects to open 20 pubs in 2011 and 25 in 2012, adding that "the performance of the 15 pubs opened in 2010 continues to be good and ahead of our original targets."
In a statement ahead of its AGM on Friday, the company said: “We are encouraged by our performance to date, with the growth in like-for-like sales demonstrating the appeal and resilience of our offers despite the challenges presented by the weather in December. We are confident that our continued focus on offering our consumers value for money in high quality pubs, together with sector-leading shares in the growth segments of the beer market, places us in a strong position for the future."
Simon French and Lindsey Kerrigan, analysts at Panmure Gordon, said in a note: "Given today's in-line statement, we expect no change to consensus forecasts. In our opinion, management is successfully executing a well thought out strategy, but much of this is captured in the current valuation.
"We retain our 'hold' recommendation and 110p price target."
More Details: http://www.iii.co.uk/articles/14056/bad-weather-cant-derail-marstons