Pub company Marston's has said it is making good progress with its debt reduction plans and is ahead of schedule for its £70m of disposals target this year.
In a trading update for the 52 weeks ended 28 September 2019, the group reported underlying revenue of £1.17b against £1.14b the previous year; as well as pre-tax profit of £101m, down from £104m in 2018.
The group hopes to cut £200m of debt by 2023, including the disposal of £70m worth of non-core pubs and assets in its 2020 financial year; £50m of which has already been exchanged or completed, and a £40m reduction in spend, particularly on its new-build pubs and lodges.
Marston's reported revenue growth in all trading segments, including like-for-like sales growth of 0.8% with growth in both wet-led and food pub segments, continued sales and earnings growth in its taverns business against strong comparatives (such as the 2018 World Cup and hot summer) and average profit per pub in line with last year.
During the year the group opened eight new-build pub-restaurants, 15 wet-led pubs and two lodges. Currently Marston's has no plans for new openings in 2020.
Chief executive Ralph Findlay (pictured) said: "We are making good progress with our debt reduction plans and are ahead of schedule in meeting the accelerated £70m of disposal proceeds which we are targeting in the current year.
"We continue to benefit from Marston's balanced business model and our Taverns wet-led community pubs and brewing businesses have both once again outperformed the market, building on an outstanding year last year. We are employing a renewed focus on the proposition in our food-led pubs and remain well placed to benefit from reduced supply in this market segment, of which there is beginning to be some evidence.
"Our principal focus remains to reduce our net debt by £200m by 2023 – or earlier – and the measures we are taking now will result in a high quality business which is cash generative after dividends and capital expenditure. Trading is on track for the initial weeks of the current year and we are well prepared for the all-important Christmas and New Year period."
Pub operator and brewer Marston's has an estate of 1,400 pubs nationally, comprising managed, franchised and leased pubs.