June 26, 2020 / 6:27 AM / 13 days ago

Marston's gears up to reopen pubs, sees smaller sector ahead

FILE PHOTO: Signage for a Pitcher & Piano bar, owned by Marston's, is seen in London, Britain, June 23, 2020. REUTERS/Simon Newman

(Reuters) - Britain’s Marston’s (MARS.L) said on Friday it expects a smaller market ahead for pubs and restaurants as it looks to reopen and rebound from a 73% fall in half-year profit.

It is also set for change on the brewing side, where the maker of Pedigree, Hobgoblin and Lancaster Bomber beers has announced plans for a joint venture with Carlsberg.

“Looking forward, it is clear that there will be contraction of supply in the eating and drinking out market,” the company said after reporting an underlying pretax profit of 9.4 million pounds, down from 34.2 million.

Marston’s shares were down 6.7% at 60.3 pence at 1155 GMT following the results, which included underlying revenue of 510.5 million pounds, down almost 8%.

CEO Ralph Findlay told Reuters the company, which has furloughed more than 13,000 workers, has around 10% of its staff back and expects nearly 60% of them to return in time for the reopenings.

Precautions will include no cutlery, sauces or condiments set out on tables, disposable menus, markers on the floor and bars to enforce social distancing, hand sanitisers and enhanced cleaning, Findlay said.

“Initial trading recovery should benefit from its predominantly suburban locations, diverse split of wet and food-led pubs and notable outside space,” Liberum analysts said.

Rival J D Wetherspoon (JDW.L) said last month its pubs would have glass screens, entry and exit signs and its staff will hand over drinks holding glasses by the base.

Marston’s had reduced its monthly cash burn to 10 million pounds and its net debt by around 39 million pounds to 1.38 billion pounds, excluding lease liabilities, as of March 28, its financial mid-year.

Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar in Bengaluru; editing by Amy Caren Daniel and Jason Neely

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