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Festive cheer at Enterprise as sales rally

PUB group Enterprise Inns yesterday reported improving sales after many of its struggling licensees saw a long-awaited upturn in business.

The UK’s second largest pub company said average net income per pub declined by four per cent in the 16 weeks to 16 January – compared to eight per cent in the last financial year.

Shares in the company closed 19.6 per cent higher at 113.5p after the upbeat announcement.

The company said the festive period had highlighted the “key role that the pub plays at the heart of many communities.”

While the UK's “big freeze” hit sales at some pubs, Enterprise said it “brought welcome extra custom to others”.

Enterprise said efforts to offload loss-making pubs and invest in better performers was helping to boost figures at the firm’s 7,400-strong estate.

The company has offloaded many of its underperforming pubs, selling 103 sites for £32m during the 16 weeks. The company said in a statement: “Strong cash generation from the business plus the benefit of sensible asset disposals have continued to drive our programme to reduce the level of borrowings under our bank facility. Trading conditions will be challenging throughout the year as pubs and consumers alike face the prospect of rising taxes and higher unemployment positioned to drive the business forward through these difficult times.”

The smoking ban and unemployment have badly dented pub sales.