Wetherspoon dividend back as profit rises

PUB chain Wetherspoon announced the end of a year-long dividend freeze yesterday after successfully completing its debt refinancing.

Shareholders will receive a 12p dividend on 1 April for the year to July 2009 with a further special dividend of 7p a share.

Last year it scrapped its dividend payment as it negotiated its refinancing. It has now arranged a new £530m banking facility “on competitive market terms” with a syndicate of 11 banks which expires in March 2014 to allow it to make the payment.

The FTSE 250 group was also toasting record pre-tax profits of £36.2m for the 26 weeks to 24 January with total sales reaching £488.1m.

Wetherspoon, which has 746 pubs across the UK, said it remains positive on its future prospects despite challenges being placed on the industry by government legislation.

It opened 17 pubs during the period and closed two.

This replaces the £435m facility which is due to expire in December.

Chairman Tim Martin said: “As a result of our sales, profits and free cash flow, together with our continued efforts to improve every area of the business, I remain confident of our future prospects.”