Karen

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Initial public offering, Spirit

Jones chief executive, Spirit Group (4) Karen Jones has been running Punch Retail/Spirit since 1999 and has spent the last year integrating the...

Jones

chief executive, Spirit Group (4)

Karen Jones has been running Punch Retail/Spirit since 1999 and has spent the last year integrating the 1,406 Scottish & Newcastle managed houses it acquired back in October 2003. Jones says Spirit has now "achieved its objectives" in this field.

In financial terms, Spirit has been a success. The sale of Premier Lodge to Whitbread raised £536.2m and two sale and lease-back deals raised a combined £674m. In addition, Spirit shed 364 lower-quality pubs after property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz snapped them up for £345m. "Our integration has gone well and we have also completed our planned mergers and acquisitions activity, including two sale and lease backs, the sale of Premier Lodge, a successful refinancing and the sale of these pubs," says Jones.

Following the pub sale, Spirit now owns 2,050 pubs across a varied portfolio including the likes of Chef & Brewer, Country Carvery, John Barras, Mr Q's, Millers, Wacky Warehouse, Firkin and Tom Cobleigh. A group of 173 high-street pubs are set to be sold, though.

Spirit was widely expected to be preparing itself for an Initial Public Offering. Major questions hang over this now because of a lacklustre performance in the half of the estate securitised last November ­ and whose sales figures are now in the public domain.

However, Spirit insists that a 6% increase in volumes in the S&N estate, thanks to lower prices, is an upward curve that will continue ­ and will deliver improved margins. It is also planning to spend between £35m and £45m this year on its three drive brands ­ Chef & Brewer, Two for One and John Barras. If Spirit can beat down rising costs and push sales and margins forward, its profits can be restored and even increased. On this hangs Spirit's chances of a flotation and Jones' hopes of running a publicly-quoted company. The coming year is likely to prove decisive in relation to these two inter-related prospects.

Related topics: Legislation, Other operators

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