MARKET REPORT: Cheers! Pubs look ahead to a warm summer as drinkers return

Pub group Young’s hailed a return of workers and tourists across London as it looked ahead to a warm summer and the Rugby World Cup.

The company, which owns 227 pubs, said while fewer people were commuting to the office five days a week, sales had risen in the capital from Tuesdays to Thursdays.

Revenue rose 19.4 per cent to £368.9million in the year to April 3 while profits slid 14 per cent to £36.2million.

Business was boosted last year as Young’s welcomed customers to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, pay their respects on the day of her funeral and watch the first winter football World Cup.

While soaring inflation and rail strikes have taken their toll, Young’s remained upbeat on its prospects over the next 12 months. Sales have risen 4.8 per cent since the start of April – thanks to warm weather over Easter and the early May bank holiday.

Toast of the town: Young’s, which owns 227 pubs, said while fewer people were commuting to the office five days a week, sales have risen in London across Tuesday to Thursday

Boss Simon Dodd said there was ‘huge excitement’ for the Rugby World Cup in the autumn. Shares rose 0.4 per cent, or 5p, to 11p. 

Fevertree also toasted a good start to the year as the tonic maker’s UK market share in hotels, restaurants, bars and cafes reached a record high in the first quarter.

It said summer will be a key trading period and reiterated its forecasts for the year despite ‘elevated’ cost pressures. Shares slid 0.8 per cent, or 11p, to 1423p.

The FTSE 100 fell 0.7 per cent, or 56.23 points, to 7570.87 and the FTSE 250 was down 0.5 per cent, or 90.41 points, to 18,840.75.

United Utilities faced a cocktail of woes from higher electricity and chemical costs to lower consumption. 

The water provider to the North West said its revenue slid 2.1 per cent to £1.82billion in the year to the end of March while profit plunged 27.7 per cent to £440.8million.

Despite this, it expects revenue to increase by around £150m in the current financial year. It slid 1.3 per cent, or 13.5p, to 1001.5p.

Hill & Smith added 4.8 per cent, or 66p to 1432p after the safety barrier maker said profits were on course to beat City forecasts following a strong performance across its three divisions.

Stock Watch – Headlam

Headlam plunged after the flooring company’s profits were squeezed by lower household demand and softer price rises.

Revenue in the first four months of the year was 3.4 per cent up on the same period in 2022. 

But a dip in housing business and moderation in price increases ate into profits.

‘The overall profit performance remains dependent on consumer sentiment in the residential market,’ it said.

The shares sank by 9.9 per cent, or 26p, to 237p.

It expects profit to exceed the top end of the £105.2million to £110.2million range predicted by analysts.

Group revenue in the first four months of the year was 18 per cent ahead of the same period in 2022.

There was good news for Qinetiq after the defence firm’s orders soared 41 per cent to a record £1.7billion in the 12 months to the end of March. 

The shares climbed 2.2 per cent, or 8p, to 378p, as it said that the increase was down to governments prioritising defence spending.

Johnson Matthey posted a slump in annual revenue and profits in the year to the end of March amid volatile precious metal prices. 

The chemicals giant warned it would take a hit of about £50million if prices remained unstable. Its stock fell 3.2 per cent, or 60p, to 1801p.

The London Stock Exchange Group is seeking a finance boss after Anna Manz, who landed the job in 2020, announced plans to step down in May next year.

She will take on the same role outside the financial services industry. Shares rose 0.4 per cent, or 36p, to 8338p.

Workspace gained 3.7 per cent, or 17.8p, to 496.6p after the office space provider’s rental income shot up 34 per cent to £116.6million in the year to the end of March.

It swung to a loss of £37.5million, having made a £124million profit the year before, following a decline in its property valuation.

But the full year dividend was hiked by 20 per cent to 25.8p a share.

Tate & Lyle, the ingredients maker, said that its profit rose 13 per cent to £253million in the year to the end of March.

It has dealt with rising costs by hiking its prices. Shares rose 1.9 per cent, or 15p, to 799.5p.