PUBS operator Punch Taverns today toasted the prospects of improved trading this summer as it unveiled solid half-year results.
The group, which has scores of pubs in the Huddersfield area and more than 8,400 nationwide, lifted pre-tax profits by 1% to £133m – despite a 9% cut in the size of its estate.
Taking account of one-off costs linked to the sell-offs, profits fell to £109m against £138m last time.
The group announced an 8% increase in the interim dividend to 5.5p as licensees continued to “perform well” with average licence profitability up by 11% to £40,000.
Punch invested £84m on improving 950 leased and managed pubs during the six months to March 1. At the same time, it was on target for cost savings of about £10m in the current financial year.
Punch’s Yorkshire operations director Mark Chapman said the group had benefited from hard work preparing for the smoking ban, the sale of 900 pubs representing “the tail of our estate” and the acquisition of the managed estate of rival pubs operator Spirit.
Chief executive Giles Thorley said: “While we remain cautious over short-term trading conditions for the sector, we are well placed as we move into a more positive environment over the summer months and pass the anniversary of the smoking bans.”