Punch shares slide after bad weather sales hit

SHARES in Punch Taverns slid today after Britain’s second biggest pubs company disclosed that trading in its second trading quarter had been hit by the bad weather in January.

Punch Taverns, which has more than 300 tenanted pubs in Scotland including Edinburgh’s Beehive Inn and Malt Shovel, said in an update that same-floorspace income fell 3.5 per cent in its core estate in the 12 weeks to 2 March. This was an improvement on the income fall of 5.2 per cent in its first trading quarter, but still disappointed the market.

“Trading across the quarter has been in line with our expectations, despite January being adversely impacted by weather,” the group said. The shares closed down 0.25p or 2.3 per cent at 10.75p.

Punch, whose chief executive Roger Whiteside was poached to become boss of the Greggs high street bakery chain in January, announced a plan last year to sell 400 of its 3,000-strong core UK pub estate, and has forecast a return to income growth next year.

The group said the disposal programme was slightly ahead of the target to raise £105 million in the current financial year.

Punch said yesterday that the launch of a new tenant recruitment website “has been extremely well received, having attracted 1,200 inquiries in the last three months, helping support a further 10 per cent growth in applicant numbers”.

Stephen Billingham, its executive chairman, said Punch was also encouraged by the progress in its discussions with its shareholders and bondholders about its major capital restructuring plans.

Billingham said he believed what have been lengthy negotiations would lead to a “consensual restructuring” being launched in the first half of 2013.