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UK's Wetherspoon says it is 'cautiously optimistic' despite slow October

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: A Wetherspoon's logo is seen at a pub in central London

(Reuters) -UK's J D Wetherspoon said on Wednesday its sales had slowed in October, but the pub group remained "cautiously optimistic" about its future prospects as younger Britons flock to its taverns.

The company, often referred to simply as "Spoons", reported a 9.6% rise in like-for-like sales for the first quarter plus an additional week ended Nov. 6, and said it expected positive cash flow for its 2023 financial year ending July.

Pubs, restaurants and hotels in Britain, still recovering from COVID-19 pandemic disruptions, are now grappling with rising costs of everything from labour and ingredients to energy, and lower consumer spending as inflation rockets.

Wetherspoon on Wednesday said costs — especially of labour, food, and repairs — were "substantially higher" in the period. Interest costs for the current financial year are also expected to be about 10 million pounds higher, it said.

The company, which said it had terminated most of its interest rate swaps to help cut down debt, said net debt dropped to 745 million pounds as at Nov. 6, from 892 million pounds at the end of July.

"In the absence of further lockdowns or restrictions, the company remains cautiously optimistic about future prospects," Chairman Tim Martin said.

(Reporting by Amna Karimi and Radhika Anilkumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)