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The British weather has not been terribly kind to the pub trade recently, since pub beer gardens were reopened in the middle of April.
But still, customers have been braving the wet weather to flock back to their local for a pint, according to the pub groups Mitchells & Butlers and Marston’s, who reported strong demand since reopening in mid-April.
The pub and restaurant group Mitchells & Butlers, which is now serving customers at almost all of its 1,600 venues, said it was confident its profits would rebound once coronavirus restrictions are fully eased.
Phil Urban, Mitchells & Butlers’ chief executive, said this morning:
“We had plenty of examples of hardy souls refusing to leave their pint just because of a bit of rain.”
The All Bar One owner, which also runs pub chains including O’Neill’s and restaurant brands such as Harvester, said it had seen strong levels of bookings and demand.
However, with pubs restricted to outdoor-only tables until indoor drinking resumed on Monday, sales in the five weeks from 12 April remained 37% lower than normal trading before the pandemic.
“It finally feels as though we are on the way back,” said Urban.
“Judging by our bookings, we are in for a busy time. We believe people will value eating and drinking out far more than before, having been starved of it for so long.”
Future, the owner of magazines from Marie Claire to Metal Hammer and sites such as Techradar and GoCompare, has reported record revenues and profits in its first half as the company continues to cash in on the pandemic-fuelled reading and online shopping boom.
Future reported a 21% increase in group revenues to £272m and more than doubled pre-tax profits to £57m in the six months to the end of March, well ahead of analyst forecasts, prompting the company to say that its full year results will now be “materially ahead” of expectations.
Future’s share price has surged 8% today, to its highest levels in over 20 years – since the aftermath of the first dotcom boom two decades ago.
This gives the London-listed group a market value of more than £3bn.
The company, which generates revenue from magazine sales, digital advertising and e-commerce by sending online readers to partner retailers, said that Covid lockdown restrictions provided a £5m eCommerce revenue boost as shoppers stocked up online.
Future grew online users by 31% to 311m year-on-year and says it now reaches more than a third of adults online in the US and UK.
Sophie Lund-Yates, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, says:
“There’s no getting away from the fact that these are a stonking set of results from Future, and suggest at least for now, the business is futureproof”
Back in the City, UK infrastructure investor John Laing are leading the FTSE 250 risers after agreeing to be taken over by private equity giant KKR in a £2bn deal.
My colleague Joanna Partridge explains:
Private equity firm KKR has agreed to buy UK infrastructure investor John Laing, whose recent projects include Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, in a deal valued at around £2bn.
John Laing has invested in over 150 projects and businesses since it was founded, across a range of sectors including transport and energy.
The firm, which was floated in February 2015, currently owns assets including schools, hospitals and infrastructure predominantly in the United States and Australia, as well as in Europe.
John Laing said its board intended to unanimously recommend KKR’s offer to its shareholders to take the firm private, adding that it represented a fair and reasonable value for the company.
The takeover values the London-listed firm at 403p per share, a 27% premium to its value on 5 May, just before it confirmed it was in talks with KKR. Shares in John Laing have jumped 11% to 401p today.
John Laing was founded in 1848 as a building company in Carlisle, and has worked on major UK projects such as the M1 motorway, the Severn Bridge, and the Sizewell B nuclear power station, before focusing on infrastructure work.
It was previously taken over by Henderson in 2006, before returning to the stock market in 2015.
Here’s our news story on the jump in UK’s house prices:
House prices across the UK grew at the fastest pace in March since just before the financial crisis hit in 2007, according to official figures.
With buyers rushing to take advantage of the government’s stamp duty holiday, extended to the end of June, the average UK house price climbed 10.2% in the year to March, up from 9.2% in February. This is the highest annual growth rate the UK has seen since August 2007, said the Office for National Statistics.