M&B boosts its profits but holds dividend

PUB and restaurant group Mitchells & Butlers boosted full-year pre-tax profits by 26 per cent to £169m, but a £300m property write-off pushed it to a pre-tax loss, it reported yesterday.

The owner of bar brands such as All Bar One, O’Neill’s, and Harvester saw 1.1 per cent revenue growth to £1.98bn over the year, but recorded an overall £84m loss, down from a £4m profit the previous year, due to the writedown.

As a result, it will not reinstate its dividend again this year, after suspending it in 2008 due to difficult trading conditions. It will not commit to paying one in 2011.

“We have delivered a very good set of results in challenging economic conditions,” said chief executive Adam Fowle.

The group is eight months into a restructuring to turn it from a drink-led to a food-led business, which will focus on the casual dining market.

In the past year it has sold 49 of its non-core “wet-led” pubs and bought 22 Ha Ha Bar and Grill sites for £19.5m.

It has also reduced net debt by almost £300m, to £2.3bn, cutting its interest bill by £13m to £147m.

Analysts reacted positively to the results, with both Evolution Securities and KBC Peel Hunt recommending the share as a “buy”.

“The company now has a very strong strategy,” said Paul Hickman of KBC Peel Hunt.

He added: “There’s a lot of brand strength there; it is much more focused than before.”
However, shares fell about 2.6 per cent to 344.6p.