JD Wetherspoon profits up despite smoking ban trial

08-09-2006

Pubs chain JD Wetherspoon has posted a 24 per cent rise in annual pre-tax profits, despite declining sales in outlets where the company trialled non-smoking ahead of a national ban which comes into force next year.

The company said that profit before tax in the year to July 30th was £58.4 million.

Sales for the year increased by £37.7 million to £847.5 million, representing a rise of five per cent, while earnings per share increased by 43 per cent to 24.1 pence.

Wetherspoon, which converted 17 pubs in England and Wales into non-smoking venues in the first half of the year, acknowledged that sales across the outlets declined by 6.5 per cent on a like-for-like basis over the period.

However an increase in the promotion of non-alcoholic drinks, including a major push on coffee sales, helped the company boost profits over the year.

Wetherspoon claims that its coffee sales now match those of rival Caffe Nero and that the business has captured around six per cent of the UK's "chain" coffee market.

The company claims that it is also serving around 200,000 breakfasts across its pubs each week after focussing on the availability of morning food for its customers.

Commenting on the results, Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said that the company had made "good progress" over the year.

He said that the pub chain "strongly supported" the principle of a ban on smoking in pubs and that although the short-term effect of a change to smoking rules was likely to result in a drop in sales and profits, Wetherspoon was "confident" about its ability to implement the change.

"Although the adjustment to a non-smoking environment can be difficult, the company is confident that the long term benefits will outweigh the short term issues," Mr Collins concluded.





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