UK: JD Wetherspoon sees costs hit sales rise

File photo dated 20/01/09 of a general view of a JD Wetherspoon pub in central London as the pub cha

File photo dated 20/01/09 of a general view of a JD Wetherspoon pub in central London as the pub chain cheered an Olympic boost to sales today but warned the gold performance could not be sustained as the impact of one-off events tails off. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday September 14, 2012. The group, whose 860 mainly town-centre pubs screened the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, saw like-for-like sales in the six weeks to September 9 jump 8.4%, with total sales up 12.8%. This compares with 6.1% growth in the 11 weeks to July 8. See PA story CITY Wetherspoon. Photo credit should read: Tim Ireland/PA Wire - Credit: PA

JD Wetherspoon has toasted an 8% surge in festive sales but warned rising costs would dent profit margins as it faces higher energy bills and wage costs.

The group, which has around 860 pubs and almost 30,000 staff, said half-year margins were expected to be around 1.1% lower than its previous financial year in the face of higher tax, utilities, labour, bar and food supply costs, as well as marketing expenses. Its corporation tax bill was expected to hit 27.5% this year. The group said sales and profits were “resilient, in spite of the continuing taxation and regulation burden on the pub industry and the ongoing pressure on consumer’s disposable incomes”.

It shrugged off severe wet weather and flooding to report the rise in sales over the 11 weeks to January 13, which helped overall like-for-like sales rise 7.6% so far this financial year.

But shares in the group dropped 2% as today’s margin blow overshadowed the sales cheer, with expectations for further cost pressures when this April’s above-inflation alcohol duty increases come into effect.

James Hollins, analyst at Investec Securities, cut his annual profit forecasts for Wetherspoon by 5% after the update, to £70.4million.

He said: “Wetherspoon has reported an exceptionally strong second quarter sales performance, highlighting the strength of its pub offering in any weather.

“However, the top-line growth has come at the expense of higher costs, notably a material uplift in utilities costs.”