Tim Martin, the Brexit-backing and plain-talking chairman of JD Wetherspoon, has poured scorn on the “gloomy economic forecasts” of prominent Remain supporters after unveiling solid full-year sales and profits at the pubs giant he founded.
Martin, who set up the firm in the late 1970s and has overseen its expansion into a 900-plus strong chain, called out the CBI, the IMF, the OECD, the Treasury and former chancellor George Osborne among others for failing to “see through the flaws” of the EU, and said their economic forecasts “have been proven to be false”.
He said: “Just as the combined intellectual weight of the ‘good and great’ could not see through the flaws in the euro, they have, with honourable exceptions, been unable to see that the principle flaw of the EU – an absence of democracy – will almost certainly lead to further economic and political chaos … For all their faults, democracies produce the greatest level of prosperity and freedom.
“As in the case of the euro, the general public has a much better perception about this overriding factor than the consensus of intellectual opinion.”
His comments came alongside full-year results, which revealed a 12.5 per cent hike in pre-tax profits to £66 million after exceptional items. Overall revenues rose 5.4 per cent to just under £1.6 billion while like-for-like sales grew 3.4 per cent over the 52 weeks to 24 July.
Martin said: “I am pleased to report a year of progress for the company, with record sales, profit and earnings per share before exceptional items.
“Since the year end, Wetherspoon’s sales have continued to be encouraging and increased by 4.1 per cent.”
However, he added that it remains to be seen whether this will continue over the remainder of the year, given a low-inflation environment.
The full-year dividend was maintained at 12p a share.
Shore Capital analyst Greg Johnson said the results were ahead of forecasts, with current trading described as strong.
He noted: “The progression in the second half was encouraging … and would imply [profit before tax for current year] of some £85m against our current forecast of £79m (based on a 7 per cent margin). We would expect full-year estimates to settle somewhere in between.”
Tim Barrett at Numis noted that “the cost environment remains tough, scope for more buybacks is limited and the valuation is full”.
Meanwhile, Belhaven owner Greene King yesterday pointed to a drop in consumer confidence following the Brexit vote and cautioned that spending could slow in the months ahead.
Nevertheless, the group cheered a “strong start” to its financial year thanks to better weather and the Euro 2016 championship. Like-for-like sales lifted 1.7 per cent in the 18 weeks to 4 September. The firm operates some 3,000 pubs, restaurants and hotels.