Marston’s has said the impact of coronavirus hit sales by £40m. Announcing its interim results, it said sales for the 26 weeks to 28 March dropped to £510.5m compared to £553.1m the year before. Pre-tax profits also dived from £34.2m to £9.4m.

However, although it acknowledged that under the circumstance its “initial revenue and earnings profile” was uncertain it was upbeat in its outlook, saying it had “plans in place for pubs to reopen from 4 July, its JV with Carlsberg “significantly” strengthened its balance sheet and of its predominantly freehold pub estate, located outside city centres, 90% has outside space.

It also said it was “well placed to benefit from likely supply contraction in sector and gain market share”.

CEO Ralph Findlay said “Our immediate priority is to prepare our pubs to reopen on 4 July. Whilst there is short term uncertainty as the sector emerges from lockdown, we are focussed on offering a great guest experience, synonymous with Marston’s hospitality, to welcome our customers back into our pubs within a safe trading environment.

“The challenges facing the sector should not be underestimated and much rests on consumer confidence which may take time to rebuild. As the industry navigates its way out of lockdown, we will continue to urge government for continued support for pubs and wider hospitality, through the reopening phase and thereafter through business rates relief and cuts to VAT, to protect jobs, the economy and the invaluable role the pub plays in communities nationwide.

“Looking ahead, our transformational deal with Carlsberg positions the Company well for the future. Post completion, Marston’s will be a focused pub and accommodation business with a significantly strengthened balance sheet, well placed to rebuild trading momentum and leverage the market opportunities available to us over the medium to longer term.”