JD Wetherspoon (JDW) has achieved a 9.6% increase in like-for-like (lfl) sales in the first 14 weeks of the financial year, versus 2021 figures.

The level of lfl growth was strongest in the first nine weeks to 6 November 2022, at +10.1%, before reducing to 8.9% for the last five weeks.

Lfl sales were 0.4% up on 2019 figures for the comparable period (+1.5% in the first nine weeks, but then -1.1% lower in the subsequent five).

JDW opened one new pub and sold five over the period, which gave rise to a cash inflow of £1.9m.

The company recently put 32 pubs on the market and intends to add a further seven to the disposal list this week – the majority of which are close in proximity to existing sites.

Tim Martin, chairman, JD Wetherspoon, commented: “Sales have improved since the ending of restrictions in the early part of this calendar year and are considerably above the same period in the last financial year.

“The company reported a return to positive cash flow in FY22 and anticipates a positive cash flow in the current year.”

The company has terminated most of its interest rate swaps, as part of its plans to reduce debt over the next few years, receiving £169.4 million, after costs.

The mark-to-market value of the interest rate swaps increased by approximately £120 million from the end of the last financial year (31 July 2022) to mid-October.

As at 6 November 2022, its net debt was £745 million (£892 million at 31 July 2022). However, interest rates for FY23 are expected to be approximately £10m higher following the transaction.

“In my comments on the full year results released on 7 October 2022, I set out various threats to the hospitality industry and these continue to apply. Those caveats aside, in the absence of further lockdowns or restrictions, the company remains cautiously optimistic about future prospects,” Martin added.

JDW currently operates 847 pubs.