City Pub Group eyes ‘rapid’ recovery after lockdown sales slump

Henry Saker-Clark, PA City Reporter

City Pub Group has revealed that sales more than halved last year after the pandemic caused sites to shut but it expects a “rapid” return to profit when they reopen.

Shares in the London-focused pub owner jumped on Tuesday morning despite news of the sales slump.

The group, which runs 48 pubs across southern England and Wales, said sales dived 57.2% to £25.7 million in 2020 as a result of closures and restrictions.

All of the group’s sites are shut amid the latest coronavirus lockdown but it said it is “well positioned to emerge strongly once restrictions are lifted”.

City Pub Group said it is burning through £300,000 each month its sites are closed, after significantly reducing costs.

All but eight of the company’s staff are currently on furlough, while directors have deferred 25% of pay until pubs reopen.

Clive Watson, executive chair of City Pub Group
Founder and chairman Clive Watson said City Pub Group has a strong balance sheet despite a ‘challenging year’ (City Pub Group/PA)

The company said it has sufficient liquidity to last “well into 2022” after it raised £22 million from investors last year and secured a £5 million Government loan.

It added that it has streamlined its operating model so a “rapid return to cash generation and profitability is expected upon reopening”.

The group also said it still holds a long-term commitment to expand its estate further.

Clive Watson, chairman and founder of City Pub Group, said the company has a very strong balance sheet despite coming through a “very challenging year”.

“We have the right people in the key roles, whether in the pubs or head office, and a fantastic estate to trade from,” he added.

“I look forward to a time when I can announce to shareholders that we are on the acquisition trail again, but this will only be considered once we are hitting high levels of optimisation from our existing capacity.”

Shares in the company were 5.2% higher at 98.9p after early trading on Tuesday.

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