Regent Inns this morning reported a 2% increase in full-year like-for-like sales at its branded sites. Last year’s results saw a fall in year like-for-likes of 5.4%, not including the company’s nine unbranded sites. Turnover at ongoing operations was up by 7% at £131.3m, with Ebitda before exceptional items of £26.7m, down from £27.0m. Profit before tax, before exceptional items and goodwill amortisation was down 8% to £11.3m, backed by lower than expected operating costs and a cut in interest costs. Operating profit before exceptional items and goodwill amortisation was £17.0m, up 5.5% in the second half following a16.6% decline in the first half. Bob Ivell, the group’s executive chairman, said: "I am pleased to report financial results for the year ended 2 July 2005; a year of significant transition during which the group's financial and operating performance has improved considerably. "We believe that Regent now has a firm platform from which to pursue market consolidation opportunities and that such a strategy offers faster and stronger growth prospects." Walkabout, the largest part of the branded estate, performed strongly in the second half of the year with like-for-like sales up 4.6% despite strong June comparatives from Euro 2004 football. Excluding June, like-for-like sales growth for Walkabout in the second half was 7.3%, with the increase attributed to a stronger drinks offering, pricing policy and promotional events. The group said that, with the improvement in trading at Walkabout, it would now review the progress of Jongleurs and Bar Risa. Ivell said: "Whilst the Jongleurs Comedy Clubs have traded well during the year, a small number of the adjoining Bar Risa feeder bars have performed less well. "A comprehensive review of the Bar Risa business is being undertaken and we are confident that this will deliver improved trading, as was the case following the review of the Walkabout estate." For the total company, including unbranded sites, turnover was up 4.4% to £134.2m, with operating profit at £11.2m against a loss of £600,000 last year. Profit on ordinary activities after taxation was £4.9m, against last year’s £7.6m loss. Net bank debt was reduced by £12.6m to £58.5m. The group also saw exceptional items of £4.3m relating to the renegotiation of borrowing terms (from 8.4% to 7.8%), reorganisation of the business, saving £1.5m, and a write-off of abortive site acquisition costs. On 5 September Regent agreed five year replacement debt facilities of £100m allowing the ‘flexibility to participate in market consolidation". Panmure Gordon upgraded its forecasts by 4% and target price from 110p to 120p on the strength of the results. Analyst Douglas Jack said: "This may prove conservative, assuming 1.5% like-for-like sales growth and outlet Ebit margins declining 20 basis points due to higher depreciation." The company was unable to comment on market speculation that it was considering a bid for Revolution owner Inventive Leisure. For the 11 weeks since the end of the year, the group said that like-for-like sales in the branded estate were up 2.0%.