Punch to cut value of pubs as profits fall

PUBS group Punch Taverns is expected to slash the value of its estate by more than &pound;600m as it unveils a 40 per cent dive in annual profits on Wednesday.<br /><br />The struggling pub group is heavily weighed down by its portfolio of 8,300 pubs, which have suffered a sharp fall in value during the property market slump.<br /><br />Earlier this month the company announced it was selling 300 of its pubs, shortly after a shareholder urged Punch to sell the total portfolio and wind the business up. <br /><br />Schroders fund manager Andy Brough, who owns a 3.4 per cent stake in the pub group, said it would be in investors&rsquo; interests if the struggling pub group called time on its pubs to &ldquo;pay back its debts and return whatever&rsquo;s left to shareholders&rdquo;.<br /><br />Analysts are predicting the group&nbsp; will post annual profits of &pound;161m, down from &pound;262m the year before.<br /><br />Earlier this year Punch launched a &pound;350m rights issue to pay down some of its &pound;4bn debt mountain and announced it has reduced its net debt by &pound;1bn.<br /><br />The group said&nbsp; last month that the final quarter of its financial year was affected by mixed weather, with a warm June and early July summer weather boosting trade, but more recent rainy conditions hitting demand.<br /><br />But Punch could be dealt a further challenge from a campaign group made up of its angry landlords, threatening to withhold payment. <br /><br />The action group called Pub Revolution says it is &ldquo;fed up&rdquo; with what it claims is &ldquo;unfair bullying.&rdquo;<br /><strong><br />FAST FACTS PUNCH TAVERNS<br /></strong>Punch Taverns runs 8,300 pubs across the UK.<br />Despite launching a &pound;350m rights issue, the group is still struggling with its &pound;4bn debt mountain and is selling off pubs to raise funds.