Brexiteer's pub chain profits take another knock

PUBLISHED: 08:45 23 January 2019 | UPDATED: 09:59 23 January 2019

A sign for a Wetherspoon pub. Photograph: Fiona Hanson/PA.

A sign for a Wetherspoon pub. Photograph: Fiona Hanson/PA.

PA Archive/Press Association Images

Profits at JD Wetherspoon are expected to come in lower in the first half of the year as its Brexit-backing boss continued to use the business to promote the UK leaving the EU.

The pubs chain said in a trading update that in the first 12 weeks of the second quarter to January 20, like-for-like sales increased by 7.2% and total sales by 8.3%. In the half year, comparable increased by 6.3% and total sales by 7.2%.

However, costs have rocketed, especially labour, which has increased by about £30 million in the period.

Wetherspoon said that pre-tax profit in the first half is expected to be lower than last year’s £62 million.

Chairman Tim Martin said: “Sales growth has been strong since our last update.

“Costs, as previously indicated, are considerably higher than the previous year, especially labour, which has increased by about £30 million in the period, but also in other areas, including interest, utilities, repairs and depreciation.

“Profit before tax in the first half is expected to be lower than the same period last year. Our expectations for the full year are unchanged.”

However, should anyone expect Martin to use the profits warning to rein in his political views will be disappointed.

Martin used the financial update to argue that one of the reasons Britain should quit the EU is because of tariffs the bloc has imposed on Cambodian rice.

The pub boss has been touring Wetherspoon’s pubs to argue for a no deal Brexit in recent months, and the company is now sending out copies of its in-house magazine across the country to assist with promoting its view.

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