Marston’s shares plunge as beer sales slow amid poor weather

Shares in Marston’s have plunged after the pub giant warned investors of weaker sales over the past four months.

The pub and brewing business saw shares dive 9% in early trading after it said poor weather stopped it from matching strong sales from 2018, which were boosted by England men’s World Cup run.

The company added that it is pushing back new-build investment plans in favour of accelerating a debt reduction programme it announced at the start of the year.

Marston’s reported “modest growth” over the first three quarters of the year but saw sales in May and June hampered by wet weather, it said.

Beer sales considerably slowed down, with the publican posting 0.5% like-for-like sales growth from its managed and franchised pubs for the 42-week period.

This represents a significant dip, after Marston’s delivered a 2.2% like-for-like increase in the first half of the year.

Its destination and premium pubs division, which includes the Pitcher and Piano chain, saw like-for-like sales tail off to just 0.1% from 1.1% growth in the first half.

Meanwhile, its Taverns business reported 1.1% like-for-like growth, down from 3.9% in the first half of the year.

Marston’s brewing arm also saw sales flatten out, reporting volumes in line with last year, after growth slowed from 4% in the first half.

There has been “good progress” on the company’s efforts to generate more cash and reduce net debt by £200 million by 2023, it said.

The company said it will accelerate its plans to cut debt by deferring £70 million of investment intended for new builds.

Ralph Findlay, chief executive officer, said: “We have achieved modest growth during the 42 weeks to date continuing the long term positive like-for-like sales trend despite May and June being hampered by relatively poor weather.

“We have a high quality, balanced pub estate and a highly disciplined approach to preserving margin, together with a leading beer business which continues to perform well leveraging our outstanding brand portfolio and increasing our market share.”