City Pub Group reports sales growth, COO to depart

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Position of strength: City Pub Group chairman Clive Watson
Position of strength: City Pub Group chairman Clive Watson

Related tags Finance Pubco + head office Multi-site pub operators

City Pub Group, which owns and operates 44 premium pubs across the south of England and Wales, has reported accelerated like-for-like (lfl) sales growth of 7.8% versus 2019 in the fourth quarter (Q4) of its financial year.

The company said results would have been even better if it were not for rail strikes, which cost the business an estimated £0.75m (about 3.5% of revenue for Q4), in its Q4 and full year figures the financial year ended 25 December.

Annual turnover increased by 63% from £35.4m (2021) to £57.6m (2022) while lfl sales v 2019 were 3% up.

City Pub Group (CPG) thanked chief operating officer Toby Smith for his work, particularly during Covid, after he announced he will step down from the board on Friday 27 January. Group managing director Rupert Clark will take Smith’s position.

Two acquisitions

CPG has acquired two pubs within the past few months – Potters, Newport (freehold) and the Bridge, Barnes (leasehold). The Bridge, which has eight letting rooms, increases the total number of rooms across the estate to 225 while net debt has been reduced to £5m at the end of 2022 (2021: £13.8m) as a result of “rationalisation of the pub estate announced in March 2022 and careful cash management”.

The company has £35m total borrowing facilities until June 2024 and £152m of net assets as of 25 December 2022. Energy costs in 2022 rose substantially but these have started to reduce. Strategies including hedging up to 40% of its energy cost from April 2023 until March 2025, coupled with ongoing energy reduction initiatives, means CPG expects to save more than 10% the 2022’s energy bill.

CPG said it has emerged from the past three years in good shape to take advantage of future opportunities. It added it has a “low-geared balance sheet, a high-quality and well-invested premium pub estate that will benefit from the sales momentum experienced in Q4 of last year”.

Flexible and adaptable

Chairman Clive Watson said: “Despite challenges that our industry faces, CPG has always been flexible and adaptable and ready to take advantage of change.

“We have emerged from the pandemic in a position of strength. We are ready both financially with a very strong balance sheet and operationally with a team that is experienced yet ambitious to take advantage of both organic opportunities as we further premiumise and on building the estate through acquisition, albeit only at the right valuations which we expect to continue to soften.

“Trading has begun better than expected in 2023 and we look forward to an improving economic outlook as the year progresses.”

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