Mitchells & Butlers braces for 'challenging' market on tighter COVID-19 curbs

(Reuters) - Mitchells & Butlers Plc MAB.L on Thursday posted a massive sales slump and said its outlook remains "challenging and uncertain" in the face of new curbs for British pubs and restaurants to tackle a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered all pubs, bars, restaurants and other hospitality sites to close at 10 p.m. from Thursday, with only table service allowed.

Other hospitality companies such as Whitbread WTB.L and JD Wetherspoon JDW.L have already announced potential job cuts as a result of the coronavirus impact.

Mitchells said total sales for 51 weeks ended Sept. 19 fell more than 35% due to a sharp slump in demand caused by coronavirus-led store closures.

The company said the government’s “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme and lower tax rate for certain supplies helped it return to like-for-like sales growth of 1.4% in August, and added that it has now reopened 95% of its outlets.

Premarket indicators pegged a 3% fall in Mitchells’ stock price at market open.

Reporting by Aakash Jagadeesh Babu in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.