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Pub group Wetherspoon's losses widen, staff hard to find

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FILE PHOTO: A Wetherspoon's logo is seen at a pub in central London, Britain
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(Reuters) -J D Wetherspoon fell deeper into the red for its fiscal 2021 and said it had like many other businesses found it hard to attract workers in some areas of Britain as trading improved.

The company's losses ballooned to 194.6 million pounds ($261.85 million) for the 12 months ended July 25, from 105.4 million pounds a year earlier because of pandemic curbs. Its like-for-like sales slumped 38.4%.

Chairman Tim Martin, an outspoken critic of the government's handling of the health crisis, said the pressure on pub managers and staff has been particularly acute and some areas of the country "have found it hard to attract staff".

Wetherspoon's refrained from proposing a final dividend for the year in which it was forced to seek debt waivers from its lenders, raise money and cut jobs to get through the health crisis.

Its shares slid as much as 6% earlier in the session, but recovered some of those losses to be down 1.3% by 0833 GMT.

The company's sales in the first nine weeks of its current fiscal year were still 8.7% lower compared to pre-pandemic levels, but it said it was cautiously optimistic about 2021 as all curbs have now been lifted.

But the industry faces fresh challenges in the run up to Christmas as pub operators, which are just beginning to see signs of recovery after months of closures or reduced capacity, have been facing a shortage of labour partly due to a post-Brexit exodus of European workers.

Wetherspoon's said its total number of employees averaged 42,003 as of last week compared with 43,219 at the end of fiscal 2020.

($1 = 0.7432 pounds)

(Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M. And Elaine Hardcastle)

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