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J D Wetherspoon’s sales rise even as it offloads pubs

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By Radhika Anilkumar

(Reuters) -Pub group JD Wetherspoon said on Wednesday sales growth slowed in the first 10 weeks of the fourth quarter, but still hit record levels despite a drop in pub numbers through the year.

The group, which currently has an estate of 801 venues, offloaded 26 underperforming pubs in the year to date and said on Wednesday a further 10 are on the market.

“The last two or three years has been a catch-period as sales recovered from the pandemic,” Wetherspoon’s Chairman Tim Martin said. “Sales are now at the highest ever level, so 5 or 6%, well above inflation, is a good result, we think.”

Shares in the group, which is due to report preliminary results on Oct. 4, were down 0.9% at 761 pence by 1225 GMT, against a 1.1% rise in the wider index.

Martin, who has in the past called on the government to implement tax equality between pubs and supermarkets, said he hoped the newly formed Labour government would “rectify the inequality”.

Wetherspoon posted a 5.8% rise in like-for-like sales in the 10 weeks to July 7, against 11% a year earlier and 5.2% in the previous quarter, and said it continues to expects annual profit to be in line with market expectations.

“Wetherspoon consistently outperforms its peers and continues to invest in measures to improve serving times and the customer experience,” Derren Nathan, analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said in a note.

“That’s helped it to mitigate an inflationary led assault on its cost base.”

While pub operator Fuller Smith & Turner said in June that it had seen a jump in advance bookings because of the European soccer championship, Martin said sales had been little affected by the past three weeks of the Euros.

(Reporting by Radhika Anilkumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza, Sohini Goswami and Jan Harvey)

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