Marston's, the Midlands-based brewer, said today it is on track to fulfil its target of building and opening 15 new food-led pubs in the current financial year.
As it reported "encouraging" trading in the 16 weeks to January 23, 2010, the group said it had so far unveiled four new pubs in Aylesbury, Caterham, Daventry and Ashbourne.
"We are on site in eight locations and will commence work on a further three pubs by Easter," Marston's said in a trading update ahead of its AGM later today.
"These form part of our plan to open 60 new pubs of this type over a three year period with a targeted EBITDA multiple of 6.7 times in line with the guidance given at the time of the rights issue," it added.
Marston's said its Inns and Taverns managed pubs division saw like-for-like sales for the period up 1.5 per cent on last year. Trading over the Christmas and New Year period was described as "robust", with like-for-like sales up 2.9 per cent in the five weeks to January 2, 2010, including food sales up 4.4 per cent and drinks sales up 1.9 per cent.
As with other operators who have reported recent trading, business in January has been weaker thanks to a fortnight of bad weather. Like-for-like sales were down 5.9 per cent, although Marston's said sales trends had "subsequently returned to the levels achieved before the weather disruption".
The brewer's tenanted pubs had seen like-for-like profit in the 16 week period down nearly five per cent on last year, versus a decline of seven per cent in the financial year to October 3, 2009. Operating profit per pub fell 1.9 per cent, reflecting disposals, it added.
Marston's brewing operation reported own-brewed beer volumes in line with last year, "which compares favourably to a UK ale market down by around six per cent".
It said it had seen a one per cent increase in premium cask ale volumes and a 16 per cent hike in premium bottled ale volumes during the period.