Yet another pubs operator bestows the joys of a hot summer as Fuller, Smith & Turner (FSTA) reports an 8% rise in adjusted pre-tax profit for the six months to 28 September at £18.1 million. Interestingly, it says earnings have been driven by food demand and flags that real ale sales were depressed by the hot weather.
As we highlighted in yesterday's issue of Shares, industry data pointed to a strong market for pubs and restaurants in October and that's certainly evident in Fuller's outlook statement with a robust start to its second-half period. As is often the case, the shares have already rallied ahead of the news and today are flat at 990.5p. Click here to read our story on Young's (YNGA) results which came out yesterday, also flagging strong trading.
Fuller's chief executive officer Simon Emeny says sales have benefited from higher volumes rather than increased prices. He says 60% of customers now come to its pubs specifically to eat. 'We're getting more women and more families at the weekend,' he comments. Emeny attributes this trend to Fuller's ongoing investment in keeping its pub estate high quality and always using fresh food instead of frozen items. Shareholders are being rewarded with an 8% rise in the dividend to 5.8p per share.
The £320 million cap continues its expansion plan with a new-build site opening four days ago in Fareham. Cams Mill is situated next to the water on a freehold plot, ideally located near the M27 motorway with easy access from Portsmouth and Southampton. The CEO reckons it could become one of Fuller's biggest food operations in the country.
Two big schemes are underway in the existing estate. More bedrooms are being added to the Pilot pub in Greenwich, to take advantage of demand from visitors to the nearby O2 Arena leisure complex and very large concert venue. In the New Forest, it is spending £1.8 million to develop eight new bedrooms and refurbish existing accommodation. Fuller's reckons this will make the site suitable for functions like weddings and conferences. Next year will see two pub openings at Heathrow airport and London's Kew Bridge.
Stockbroker Panmure Gordon anticipates modest upgrades to consensus forecasts. The broker has added £500,000 to its current year pre-tax profit estimate now at £33 million. It expects Fuller's to achieve £34.2 million pre-tax profit in the following year. The broker has a 900p price target and 'hold' rating.