Byline: JIM ARMITAGE
SALES at cheap-and-cheerful pubs chain JD Wetherspoon looked to be back on the march again today after last year's shock profit warning.
February's like-for-like sales at the group, run by founder Tim Martin, were running 4.9% higher than a year earlier compared with the 3% they slipped back in the early winter period.
But half-year profit figures reflected higher overheads for the group, combined with the tougher trading conditions Martin had warned of previously.
While still up 3% in the six months to 26 January, the pre-tax profits of u25.6 million against u24.9 million a year earlier are pedestrian compared with the high-single digit or double digit percentage increases to which shareholders had become accustomed in the past.
Sales came in at u350.6 million against u285.2 million a year earlier while the interim dividend was marked up at 1.21p against 1.1p at this stage last year.
Analysts are concerned about the company's increasing focus on selling food and coffee, where margins are lower than on beer, although Martin has countered that the group must respond to trends on the High Street. …