January 18, 2017 / 7:51 AM / a year ago

JD Wetherspoon sees higher costs, lower sales

(Reuters) - British pubs group JD Wetherspoon Plc warned of significantly higher costs and lower like-for-like sales in the next six months, taking the shine off higher sales over the Christmas quarter.

The owner and operator of pubs in Britain and Ireland said like-for-like sales rose 3.2 percent in the 12 weeks to Jan. 15, the second quarter of its fiscal year, with like-for-like sales for the 25 weeks to Jan. 15 up 3.4 percent.

In November, Wetherspoon’s chairman Tim Martin had warned the company saw higher costs over the remainder of its financial year from wages, business rates and repairs.

The wage bill was expected to rise by around four percent, business rates cost an additional 7 million pounds and an apprenticeship levy an additional 2 million pounds, Martin said on Wednesday.

“Nevertheless, as a result of modestly better-than-expected year-to-date sales, we currently anticipate a slightly improved trading outcome for the current financial year, compared with our expectations at the last update,” he added.

Wetherspoon shares slipped 0.8 percent to 895p by 0815 GMT.

Last week, rival Mitchell & Butlers called its Christmas trading ‘particularly strong’, playing down fears of lower spending by British drinkers.

Wetherspoon, founded in 1979 by Martin, owns more than 950 pubs in Britain and Ireland, providing low-priced drinks and food, including breakfasts and promotions such as steak and curry clubs.

Martin, a prominent backer of Britain’s bid to leave the EU, has previously warned that a “bullying” approach by European leaders over Brexit risked hurting sales of French wine, German beer and Swedish cider.

The company’s financial year runs to the end of July. It expects to announce interim results on March 10.

Reporting by Rahul B in Bengaluru; Editing by Mark Potter/Keith Weir

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