Wetherspoon swings to a loss – but would keep lower prices if chancellor reduced VAT permanently

19 March 2021 by
Wetherspoon swings to a loss – but would keep lower prices if chancellor reduced VAT permanently

Pub chain JD Wetherspoon has reported a pre-tax loss of £46.2m in its latest financial results for the six months to 24 January 2021.

Revenue and like-for-like sales both dropped by nearly 54%, with revenue of £431.1m and as at 24 January, the company had liquidity of £225m, having raised around £93.7m in new equity earlier this year.

In July 2020, when Rishi Sunak confirmed VAT would be reduced from 20% to 5%, the company lowered its prices on products including food, soft drinks and real ale. Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has said if the chancellor decided to make the VAT reduction permanent, the company intends to retain these lower prices indefinitely, although in his most recent Budget the chancellor said the 5% rate would only last until the end of September.

Martin said: "Wetherspoon and its employees, along with the hospitality industry, have worked very hard to comply with ever-changing government guidelines. It is disappointing that so many regulations, implemented at tremendous cost to the nation, appear to have had no real basis in common sense or science – for example, curfews, ‘substantial meals' with drinks and masks for bathroom visits.

"The future of the industry, and of the UK economy, depends on a consistent set of sensible policies, and the ending of lockdowns and tier systems, which have created economic and social mayhem and colossal debts, with no apparent health benefits."

Following a review of its estate, in recent years Wetherspoon has placed around 100 of its pubs on the market, and said most of these have now been sold, leaving it with 872 sites. It has also shifted its freehold and leasehold split – while just 43.4% of its properties were freehold 10 years ago, its freehold estate now makes up 64.4% of its portfolio.

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