Omicron not killing Christmas party bookings, Marston’s boss reports

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Despite the new Omicron version, employers are hanging out in the Christmas party pub booking office, Marston’s new boss has revealed.

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Andrew Andrea, the former finance chief of Pubco, who last month replaced Marston’s leader of two decades, Ralph Findlay, told the Standard that the group did not see an increase in cancellations this week – but slimmed-downs have been able to book festivities. trend towards firms. 10 to 30 employees instead of 50 or more than 60 pre-covid parties.

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Andrea said: “Bookings started late, but they are happening. We are seeing office parties being held, but employers are quite responsible.

“We’ve been positively surprised, and we’re still making inquiries.”

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Andrea spoke as Marston – which has more than 1,500 pub properties – delivered results that show a £100 million underlying pre-tax loss on 2 October for the Covid-hit year, up from £22 million a year earlier. The damage was wide.

The company withheld dividends, and shares were down 4.2% this morning on the update.

Sales in August and September topped 2019 levels, and Andrea pointed out that the group remained in growth despite VAT rising from 5% to 12.5% ​​during the period.

The CEO said rising inflation costs are “manageable” for the group in FY22, partly due to gas tariffs being fixed by April 2023.

He said: “I think we’ve managed the pandemic very well. Clearly we haven’t been through it, we’ve got a winter to navigate as we announced last Saturday, but we really Now considering that the worst is behind us.”

He added: “We really want the government to extend that 12.5% ​​VAT rate until the end of March – which would be incredibly helpful.”

Last year Marston announced a new joint venture partnership with Carlsberg UK to create a £780 million beer giant in which Pabco holds a 40% stake.

Today Andrea said that “after selling the beer company we are now a pure-pub game”, and announced their new “make the pub proud” strategy, adding more high-end items to Marston’s Pub’s menu. prepared for viewing.

Analysts at Peel Hunt said the results revealed a “road map to creating significant equity value,” with a strategy pointing to further debt reduction. Analysts at Shore Capital said the group is reducing its debt reduction target to less than £1 billion by fiscal year 2025 – significant.

US-based Fortress Investment Group, owned by SoftBank, is in talks to buy Punch Pubs & Co and its more than 1,300 sites for around £1 billion.

Punch, controlled by real estate-focused fund Patreon Capital Partners, earlier this year bought 56 ​​pubs from rival Youngs for £53 million.

All parties have been contacted for comment.

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