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Tue 27th Nov 2018 - Update: Greggs trading, Shaftesbury results, JD Wetherspoon
Greggs reports like-for-likes up 4.5%: Food-on-the-go retailer Greggs has reported like-for-like sales increased 4.5% for the eight weeks to 24 November 2018 with total sales up 9%. The company said like-for-like performance was “ahead of expectations” and operational costs had been “well controlled”. It now anticipates 2018 full-year profit before tax, excluding exceptional charges, to be at least £86m. The company stated: “The improved trading performance reported in our third quarter trading update has strengthened further during October and to date in November. In the eight weeks to 24 November 2018, total sales grew by 9.0% (2017: 8.2%) and like-for-like sales in company-managed shops increased 4.5% (2017: 4.5%). In the year-to-date, total sales have grown 6.6% and like-for-like sales have increased 2.5%. This stronger trading in October and November is particularly encouraging as it builds on good comparative sales in the same period last year. Operational costs have been well controlled and, whilst there is still much to play for over the final few weeks of the year, the board now anticipate full year underlying profit before tax, excluding exceptional charges, will be at least £86m.”

Shaftesbury reports robust trading, footfall and occupier demand despite slowing economy: Shaftesbury, which is landlord to 282 pubs, restaurants and cafes in the West End, has reported it is continuing to see robust trading, footfall and occupier demand despite the slowing economy and consumer confidence. The company saw net property income up 6.2% to £99.3m for the year ending 30 September 2018, compared with £88.3m the previous year as a result of an increase in rents receivable, reflecting income from acquisitions and like-for like growth of 6.4%, partly offset by an increase in property costs. It stated: “The valuation of our portfolio now stands at £3.95bn, reflecting a like-for-like increase of 3.8%, of which 3.0% arose in the first half of the year. With robust footfall and trading in our locations, occupier demand has been stable throughout the year. We completed leasing transactions with a rental value of £31.4m and, excluding our larger schemes, EPRA vacancy over the year has remained in line with our ten-year average. At our three completed larger schemes, 84.4% of the income is now contracted or under offer. Our mixed-use scheme at 57 Broadwick Street, Carnaby, was fully let during the year and we completed the letting of Thomas Neal’s Warehouse, in Seven Dials, in November 2018. At our retail and restaurant scheme at Central Cross, Chinatown, 47% of the income is now contracted and a further 23% is under offer. The ERV of space available or under offer is £1.9m, representing just 1.3% of total portfolio ERV. While the pace of these lettings has impacted on revenue growth in the year ended 30 September 2018, they will now be making a useful contribution to earnings in the current financial year. In September 2018, we secured vacant possession of 65,300 square foot of space at 72 Broadwick Street, Carnaby. Shortly we will submit a planning application to introduce new uses and reconfigure the building and currently expect to start our works in summer 2019. We are the largest single owner of restaurants, cafés and licensed premises in the West End, and their importance as a source of rental income has grown from 28% to 35% of ERV over the past ten years. Our largest cluster of restaurants is in Chinatown, where we have a rolling programme to introduce new food concepts from mainland China and across the Far East. Carnaby’s casual dining and leisure offer, which now accounts for 21% of its income, continues to draw increasing footfall from lunchtime to late evening, throughout the week.” Chief executive Brian Bickell said: “It has been another year of good progress with growth in income, earnings and the value of our portfolio. Our results continue to demonstrate the appeal and qualities of our carefully curated and iconic destinations, underwritten by the global attraction and exceptional features of London and the West End. Footfall and spending in our locations continues to be largely unaffected by the widely reported headwinds affecting the national economy and consumer confidence. General demand continues to be firm, buoyed by the trading conditions our tenants are reporting.” 

JD Wetherspoon accuses FT of bias: JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has accused the Financial Times (FT) of bias following an article about its board structure. Martin said: “I received a request from Kate Burgess of the FT (15 November), via our media consultant Eddie Gershon, asking for information on the structure of the Wetherspoon board and the ‘lack of independent directors. I replied on the same day giving the Wetherspoon view on corporate governance, about which I have written extensively in annual reports over the years, enclosing an article I wrote for Propel in October 2014. An article written by Kate Burgess appeared in the FT on the following day, which did not deal with Wetherspoon’s reasons for non-compliance with the ‘nine-year rule’ and conflated our trading performance, corporate governance and Brexit. I wrote a letter to the FT, in reply to the article, on the 19 November, but this has not been published. I have personally been a critic of what appears to me to be the sectarianism of the FT over the years in respect of European matters, during which it has championed the disastrous exchange rate mechanism, the euro and remaining in, or closely attached to, the EU. The FT appears biased in its coverage of these important issues, effectively censoring views that do not accord with the pro-EU stance of its current and previous editor. The FT’s poor judgement on European issues clearly also clouds its views on other matters such as corporate governance.”

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