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Tim Martin just can’t help himself from making political statements in financial reports by his pub group JD Wetherspoon.

This time, the company chairman has steered clear from commentary on the EU, of which he is conspicuously not a fan.

But even while reporting a near 43 per cent rise in profits in the six months ending on January 22 compared to the same spell last year, to £51.4m, he has taken a swing at this week’s Budget. After a 3.3 per cent rise in like-for-like sales for the period, he has also warned of slower sales in the months ahead.

Chancellor Philip Hammond promised a discount on business rates for pubs with a ratable value of less than £100,000. But Mr Martin says:

In fact, that sum is dwarfed by tax and regulatory increases.

Companies like Wetherspoon, on examination of the fine print of the budget, are not, in fact, eligible for the £1,000 per annum decrease in business rates, in any event.

The company has previously emphasised the far-higher taxes per meal or per pint that pubs pay compared to supermarkets.

The Chancellor was less-than-frank in his budget speech, since he did not spell out the duty increases, giving the impression to many that there would be no increase.

In effect, this was a budget for dinner parties, no doubt the preference of the Chancellor and his predecessor – dinner parties will suffer far less from the taxes outlined above, whereas many people prefer to go to pubs, given the choice.

The company also anticipates significantly higher costs in the second half of the financial year. In view of these additional costs and our expectation that like-for-like sales will be lower in the next six months, the company remains cautious about the second half of the year.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.

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