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Marston’s positive about Christmas despite pub chain posting deeper losses

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Pub group Marston’s has said it is optimistic about the year and hailed “encouraging” Christmas bookings from customers, as it reported widening losses.

The company, which runs 1500 venues across the UK, said it has not yet been affected by booking cancellations and remains positive about the festive period despite the spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant.

Shares in the business dropped on Tuesday amid a sell-off of hospitality stocks amid fears the sector could face new restrictions due to Omicron.

Andrew Andrea, who became chief executive officer of the pub group last month, told the PA news agency that the company is in a strong position for Christmas despite sector-wide challenges.

Andrew Andrea took over at the helm of Marston's on October 3 (Marston's/PA)
Andrew Andrea took over at the helm of Marston’s on October 3 (Marston’s/PA)

“We have always complied with regulations, ensured our pubs have the best hygiene standards and will react to any further challenges,” he said.

“However, we are still positive about Christmas. Bookings have been strong and remained so recently.

“Our supply chain has also been pretty resilient, so although we have Plan B options, to deal with any sudden problems, we are as prepared as we can be.

“We also have a full stock of turkeys so anyone coming to our pubs for Christmas dinner can be reassured.”

Nevertheless, Mr Andrea said the sector could still benefit from Government support in the coming months and said scrapping plans to raise hospitality VAT back up to 20% from 12.5% would be beneficial.

It came as the company revealed its underlying pre-tax losses widened to £100 million for the year to October 2, from a £22 million loss in the previous year.

Revenues for the year tumbled to £423.8 million from £821 million in the previous year after it was more heavily impacted by pandemic restrictions.

Mr Andrea added: “It is extremely encouraging that trading momentum has built well since reopening and trading is now exceeding full-year 2019 levels.

“We were delighted to fully reopen our estate in July, once restrictions were lifted, and welcome our guests and team members back into our pubs.

“Whilst there are still some challenges to navigate over the months ahead, we believe the worst of the pandemic is now behind us and Marston’s has emerged a stronger, more focused business which is in great shape.”

Shares in Marston’s were 6.3% lower at 65.19p.

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