JD Wetherspoon will continue to open new pubs this year, the company said this week.
The chain, which numbers 900 properties, confirmed that its intention is to open “approximately” 10 pubs in the current financial year, which ends in June.
Three pubs have already opened within the last six months, with 10 sites sold during the same period.
JDW has spent £15m on buying the freeholds of pubs of which it was previously tenants and has bought back £51m of shares in the financial year.
This week the chain described itself as being in a “sound” financial position.
Net debt, at the end of this financial year, is currently expected to be around £30m higher than the level at the last financial year end.
The firm said current trading levels were good, with the 12 weeks to 21 January delivering like-for-like sales growth of 6% and total sales growth of 4.3%.
As a result of better-than-expected sales, year-to-date underlying profit before tax is slightly ahead of its expectations, although bosses warned that a similar performance in the second half will be “more difficult” to achieve.
Chairman Tim Martin used the trading update to share his latest thoughts on Brexit, accusing the CBI, BRC and the chairmen of Whitbread and Sainsbury’s of issuing “factually incorrect and highly misleading” information about food price rises, post Brexit.
“By refusing to acknowledge the fact that food prices will be reduced, post Brexit, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal and parliament votes to eliminate taxes which are currently imposed on non-EU food imports, the CBI and the BRC are trying to fool the public and MPs and bringing business into disrepute,” he said.
“These factually incorrect scare stories seem to be designed to convince the public that a deal is necessary to avoid a ‘cliff edge’. In fact, the cliff edge is a myth. There is almost no action needed, for most companies, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. Provided that parliament takes sensible steps, such as the elimination of food taxes, the public will benefit from lower food prices, from regained fishing rights and from savings of about £200m per week of EU contributions.”
Turning to Wetherspoon’s own fortunes in the second half of the year, he commented: “We face significant costs in the second half in areas which include labour, business rates and the sugar tax. There will also be some uncertainty as to the effects on our business of the FIFA World Cup. Nevertheless, given better-than-expected year-to-date sales, we currently anticipate a slightly improved trading outcome for this financial year.”