Punch Taverns on target for full year

Britain's biggest pubs group Punch Taverns said it was on track to meet full-year targets after an investment programme and support for tenants helped its recently-noted improved trading to continue.

Punch, which has over 7,100 pubs across Britain, said the improved trading momentum recorded in the fourth quarter had continued in the 16 weeks to 11 December, despite an impact from bad weather in the last two weeks of the reported period.

Punch said the average core earnings per pub from its leased division was down 1.7 per cent, which it said reflected disposals in the non-core estate.

Support for tenants through the Pathway to Partnership programme helped to deliver benefits as the rate of like-for-like EBITDA decline improved in the period, it said.

Punch said it had continued to invest just under £2m each month to help struggling tenants stay afloat, maintaining that level for more than 12 months. The support is provided through rent concessions and product discounts.

Like-for-like sales growth in the managed pubs division was at 2.2 per cent as the pub investment programme continued.

"The actions taken to strengthen both the Leased and Managed businesses have resulted in an improved trading performance in the first 16 weeks of the financial year," said Chief Executive Ian Dyson.

"We are now looking to build on this momentum by focussing on further operational improvement across the business." Dyson said his strategy review had continued and he would give an update in the first quarter of 2011.