City analysts are predicting pre-tax profits at Regent Inns will fall by 4% to £15.8m from a likely £16.5m for this year, after the sale of nearly 60 unbranded pubs and a £1m rise in insurance premiums.

Greg Feehely, an analyst at the City firm Old Mutual, said that after talking to Regent he was revising downwards by £3m his prediction for the company's pre-tax profits in 2003/4.

Market expectations for pre-tax profits for the year to July 6 2002 are around £16.5m. However, Regent has sold 33 of its "Discrete" unbranded pubs so far this year, including 20 to Wizard Inns for £27.9m, and discussions on the sale of another 25 non-core pubs are in progress.

Regent is also looking at converting nine more unbranded pubs to one of its branded concepts. However, Feehely said, by the time it has completed non-core disposals it will be looking at an as-yet unquantified net loss over book value, for which full provision will be made in the 2002 accounts.

Feehely said progress towards focusing Regent on its branded operations, Walkabout, Bar Risa, Jongleurs and Pals, continues, but this will be painful in terms of dilution. Next financial year will suffer from very tough comparisons, from a lack of World Cup-inspired business and continued uncertainty over the timing for the opening of the flagship Leicester Square venues, he said. Regent has struggled to get licences to open a series branded bars in the former Home site in Leicester Square, London, because of police fears about potential disorder.

Regent said it had seen strong trading in the first two weeks of the World Cup Competition. Walkabout broke numerous records, it said, including both highest gross weekly sales,of £171,000 at Newquay, and average venue gross sales, over £65,000. Group like-for-like sales for the 50 weeks to 15 June 2002 were up 3.8%, with Walkabout up 10.9%.

It said it plans to have four Pals outlets by the end of this year, and 50 Walkabouts; and 20 Bar Risa/Jongleurs by the end of 2003.