MARKET REPORT: Major publicans cheer end of lockdown


Three of the market’s major publicans cheered the end of lockdown as a domestic tourism boom and the return of office workers sent drinkers flooding back to the bar. 

Mitchells & Butlers, which owns the Harvester and Toby Carvery chains, said that since May 17, when pubs were allowed to serve customers indoors again, sales ‘generally strengthened’ to around 97 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. 

Fuller, Smith & Turner, which owns around 384 pubs and hotels, also said that since fully reopening in July trading had been ‘steadily increasing’, with sales at 86 per cent of 2019 levels over the past seven weeks. It expected further benefits from increased custom in the City of London as more workers returned to their offices. 

And City Pub Group, which runs around 50 pubs in several UK cities, said trading had been on ‘an upward trajectory’ since reopening in May, with sales at over 90 per cent of levels seen two years ago. 

Its accommodation performed strongly over the summer as more Britons holidayed in the UK. It also bought The Cliftonville Hotel in Cromer, Norfolk, for £1.7m. 

Pubs were one of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic as lockdowns and social distancing made it impossible for customers to crowd around the bar. 

Despite the rebound in business there were lingering concerns over a lack of workers, with City Pub chairman Clive Watson warning of staff shortages caused by EU workers returning home, and the summer ‘pingdemic’. 

Mitchells inched up 1.9 per cent, or 5p, to 267.8p while Fullers dipped 1.9 per cent, or 14p, to 716p and City Pub Group fell 3.3 per cent, or 4p, to 116p. 

The FTSE 100 was almost flat, down 0.1 per cent, or 5.02 points, to 7078.35, while the FTSE 250 rose 0.2 per cent, or 45.64 points, to 23,830.18. Markets seemed jittery following comments from the Bank of England that suggested the UK’s economic recovery could be slowing and inflation may accelerate. 

However, there was also some float activity to excite investors, with investment firm Castelnau unveiling plans to list on the LSE’s main market and raise at least £170m. It has a near-50 per cent stake in model train maker Hornby, as well as 19 per cent of funeral firm Dignity. 

Mid-cap infrastructure investor 3i was lifted 1 per cent, or 3p, to 318p after striking a deal to sell its stakes in four liquid storage terminals in the Netherlands. It expects to make around £43m. 

Fuel cell specialist Ceres Power jumped 2.4 per cent, or 27p, to 1161p as it unveiled chief technology officer Caroline Hargrove. She filled the same role at McLaren Applied Technologies, set up to exploit F1 technologies in other markets, and replaces Mark Selby, who becomes chief innovation officer. 

Big Technologies, the maker of Buddi fall alarms and electronic tracking devices, bounced 3.6 per cent, or 12.5p, to 360p after delivering maiden results following its listing in July. For the six months to the end of June, profits rose to £8.9m from £5.4m the year before. 

Oiler Harbour Energy sank 6.4 per cent, or 24.6p, to 358.6p after production fell in the first six months of 2021 due to delayed maintenance work caused by the pandemic and ‘unplanned outages’. 

British Airways scrapped plans for a budget airline to rival the likes of Easyjet and Ryanair after pilots’ union Balpa refused to back it. Shares in parent company IAG fell 1. per cent, or 2.2p, to 172p. 

Civitas Social Housing slipped 5 per cent, or 4.8p, to 90.6p as it suffered a shareholder revolt over plans to sell stock representing up to 20 per cent of its share capital. It also hit back at a letter published by short-seller Shadow Fall on Wednesday alleging a conflict of interest in a deal, saying it was based on ‘assertions not grounded in fact’. 

Elsewhere, Good Energy fell 13.7 per cent, or 45.5p, to 287p as investors fretted amid soaring wholesale energy costs.

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