Marston’s has reported like-for-like (lfl) sales growth of 7.3% for the 26 weeks ended 30 March 2024 (H1 2024).

Alongside lfl growth ahead of market, the 1,395-strong pubco has driven ‘good growth’ in pub operating profit of 22% while enabling continued reduction of its debt.

Total revenue for the period stood at £428.1m, up from £407m in 2023, while underlying loss before tax amounted to £0.8m compared to £3.6m the prior year, reflecting CMBC’s accelerated investment in brands.

The 5.2% increase in revenue was attributed to good momentum across food and drink sales.

Statutory loss before tax of £43.5m – up from £38.1m in H1 2023 – was primarily the result of two non-cash items: “the increase in liabilities from interest rate swaps of £25.8m, together with a one-off charge of £16m in respect of CMBC’s ale brand impairment and onerous contract provision.”

Underlying pub operating profit rose from £43.1m to £52.7m, while pub operating margin rose from 10.6% to 12.3% due to good progress on the cost efficiency programme.

Net debt excluding IFRS 16 lease liabilities reduced by £24.5m to £1.1bn. Debt reduction remains a key focus for the pubco.

Marston’s further reported net cash inflow of £30.5m following interest, capex, and disposals.

The business has successfully secured amendment, extension, and increase of its banking facilities totalling £340m.

Marston’s has seen an encouraging start to H2 with lfl sales up 4% in the past six weeks vs last year. Excluding the impact of the additional May bank holiday last year, lfl sales were up 5.3%.

“As with prior years, the business will be impacted by the seasonality of trade which typically sees the majority of revenue, profit and cashflow generated in H2.”

According to the company, it is well positioned to continue to capitalise on consumer lifestyle changes, with a predominantly freehold pub estate and community focus with limited city centre exposure.

Commenting, Justin Platt, CEO, said: “A positive H1, Marston’s has delivered strong like-for-like sales growth of +7.3% outperforming the market and achieving an impressive 22% uplift in pub operating profit. We have managed costs well and made further progress to reduce debt. This performance is testament to the dedication and hard work of our talented team, who constantly strive to delight our pub-loving guests.

“The outlook for H2 is encouraging. With a number of ‘must not miss’ major sporting events, our massively upgraded pub gardens and much-loved food menus, we expect our pubs to be very popular this summer.

“Reflecting on my first few months with Marston’s, I am very excited by the potential that lies ahead. The UK Pub Market offers significant value-driving opportunities for those who can engage and deliver for their guests. With our high-quality estate and guest obsessed team we are well placed to capitalise and to deliver consistent, reliable cashflows that will drive value for our shareholders.”