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Snow and ice keep punters from pubs over Christmas period, says UK's Marston's

[LONDON] British pub operator Marston's Plc said on Tuesday that business in the Christmas period was marred by snowy and icy weather in the UK and would hurt its annual profit by 1 million pounds (S$1.85 million).

The impact of weather on its like-for-like sales in the 16 weeks to Jan. 20 was around 2 per cent, Marston's said.

However, like-for-like sales excluding the impact of the snow-affected weeks were up 1.1 per cent, said the company that runs over 1,500 pubs across the UK.

Shares in the company fell as much as 6 per cent on Tuesday morning as at least one analyst trimmed their full-year estimates to reflect the impact of the weather.

The results from Marston's contrast with those from Mitchells & Butlers Plc which kicked off the Christmas period trading results from pub operators earlier this month by posting a 3.9 per cent rise in comparable sales.

"Probably one of the reasons for that (weather impact on sales) is because Marston's has a bigger portion of their estates in the North (of England) and the weather impact was much worse there," Karl Burns, analyst at Investec, told Reuters.

"The likelihood is that sales are going to slow year-on-year," Mr Burns added after trimming his full-year estimates by about 2-3 per cent. Investec has a "hold" rating on the stock.

The Wolverhampton-based company, which brews ales such as Lancaster Bomber, Brakspear and Mansfield, said own-brewed volumes rose 33 per cent in the period.

Marston's said margins fell slightly from last year due to cost increases, but were in line with expectations.

Like other operators in the British pub sector, Marston's has also been battling increased costs, most notably from wage inflation, rising property costs and unfavourable currency exchange rates.

Marston's said it remained on target to open 15 pub restaurants and bars and six lodges this year.

Shares in the company were down 4.6 per cent at 109.3 pence at 0917 GMT.


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