(Alliance News) - JD Wetherspoon on Monday fought back against what it called "irresponsible and untrue" media reports and comments by UK members of Parliament about the pub chain's operations in the aftermath of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Wetherspoon said it has reopened all its pubs in England, Scotland and Wales as soon as permitted. The pub chain said some airport and station pubs have now reopened, but some remain closed. In total, 844 pubs are now open, out of a total of 873.
Like-for-like bar and food sales were down 17% for the 44 days to August 16.
The pub operator said sales have gradually improved, with a rapid acceleration recently, largely due to the UK government's subsidised food, coffee and soft drinks scheme that benefits the early part of the week. However, Wetherspoon expects a period of more subdued sales once the scheme for subsidised early-week meals and drinks scheme ends.
"The company expects to make a loss for the year ending July 26, both before and after exceptional items. Some of these exceptional items will be related to the Covid pandemic," Chair Tim Martin said.
Wetherspoon said it remains in a sound financial position. Net debt at the end of its financial year on July 26 is estimated to have been about GBP825 million. It also proposes to enter discussions with lenders regarding waivers for the current financial year.
But Wetherspoon also hit out at a "large number of harmful media misrepresentations" in the national press and on social media. It said claims that it was "allowing overcrowding" at its pubs were "irresponsible and untrue".
The company took particular issue with an article in the Guardian newspaper that said "overcrowding in Wetherspoon pubs may lead to [a] Covid spike", which a local MP cited to claim that chain is "putting lives at risk".
"Wetherspoon has made strenuous efforts to adhere to government regulations and guidance," it asserted, noting visits by police and health officials to the pub in question in south London resulted in written confirmation that it had passed their risk assessment.
The stock was up 0.9% in early trade on Monday.
Here is what you need to know at the London market open:
FTSE 100: up 1.2% at 6,074.08
Hang Seng: up 1.6% at 25,517.67
Nikkei 225: closed up 0.3% at 22,985.51
DJIA: closed up 190.60 points, 0.7%, at 27,930.33
S&P 500: closed up 0.3% at 3,397.16
GBP: up at USD1.3103 (USD1.3090)
EUR: up at USD1.1797 (USD1.1785)
Gold: down at USD1,935.73 per ounce (USD1,941.70)
Oil (Brent): up at USD44.42 a barrel (USD43.84)
(changes since previous London equities close)
ECONOMICS AND GENERAL
Monday's Key Economic Events still to come
0830 EDT US CFNAI Chicago Fed national activity index
More than 90,000 jobs have been lost or placed at risk across the wider UK travel sector since the coronavirus crisis started, the association of travel agents & tour operators has said. Abta has written to UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak asking for a package of measures to support businesses and employees before thousands more jobs are lost. The travel association warned that the job situation in the industry had reached a "critical point" with measures to control the pandemic affecting the market. A survey of Abta members, published on Monday, found 18% of jobs in outbound travel had already been lost or placed at risk, but 78% businesses yet to enter redundancy conversations were expecting to do so in coming months based on current trading conditions.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to hospital on Monday for more medical checks, a government spokesman said, a week after a first visit that fuelled growing speculation about his health. "I've been told today he will receive additional testing after a check-up" last week, government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters at a regular briefing. "I see him every day and I don't see any change in him," Suga said, in response to questions about Abe's health. There has been growing speculation about whether the prime minister is sick, possibly with a recurrence of the ulcerative colitis that plagued him during a first term in office and contributed to his resignation just one year into the job.
Two hurricanes are expected to slam into the US Gulf Coast in the coming days, forecasters said Sunday, as Tropical Storm Laura killed at least 12 people when it struck Haiti and the Dominican Republic. US media said twin hurricanes were unprecedented in the Gulf of Mexico since records began 150 years ago. Tropical Storm Marco strengthened into a hurricane with winds of 75 miles per hour, and is forecast to hit the state of Louisiana on Monday. Tropical Storm Laura hammered Haiti and the Dominican Republic with heavy rain, killing at least 12 people â€“ 9 in Haiti and three in the Dominican Republic. It was set to become a hurricane on Tuesday that could hit the US coastal region on Wednesday. Energy companies have suspended some oil and natural gas production in the Gulf as the weather deteriorates.
Firefighters on Sunday battled some of California's largest-ever fires that have forced tens of thousands from their homes and burned one million acres, with further lightning strikes and gusty winds forecast in the days ahead. Thousands of lightning strikes have hit the US state in the past week, igniting fires that left smoke blanketing the region, bringing the total area burned to "close to one million acres," or 400,000 hectares, according to CalFire public information officer Jeremy Rahn. That is considered a stunning toll this early in California's fire season, which normally runs from August to November, and it comes as exhausted firefighters are already struggling to keep up with the far-flung blazes. The National Weather Service said dry thunderstorms could spark additional wildfires, adding that "the western US and Great Plains are shrouded under a vast area of smoke." It issued red-flag warnings covering large swaths of northern and central California.
BROKER RATING CHANGES
JEFFERIES CUTS KELLER GROUP TO 'HOLD' ('BUY') - TARGET 640 (590) PENCE
GOLDMAN SACHS RAISES ASOS PRICE TARGET TO 5,700 (5,000) PENCE - 'BUY'
COMPANIES - FTSE 100
Bunzl said it delivered a resilient performance in the first half despite the unprecedented challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. For the financial year ended June 30, revenue rose 7.0% to GBP4.85 billion from GBP4.53 billion last year, and pretax profit was up 22% to GBP245.4 million from GBP200.5 million. Bunzl raised its interim dividend 1.9% to 15.8 pence from 15.5p paid out last year. As a result of the better-than-expected trading performance during the first half of the year. Bunzl said it also has decided to reinstate and pay the final dividend for 2019 at the same level as originally proposed of 35.8p. Bunzl said that, as it is no longer possible for this dividend to be approved by shareholders at the annual general meeting, it will be paid as an additional interim dividend in November. "Looking forward, although there remains considerable uncertainty, we expect to face challenging trading conditions during the second half of the year. However, the fundamental aspects of our business model remain attractive with the group's strong cash generation allowing us to maintain Bunzl's long track record of dividend growth and continue our compounding strategy of consolidating the group's fragmented markets through focused acquisitions," said Chief Executive Frank van Zanten.
Pearson said it appointed Non-Executive Director Andy Bird as its new chief executive to replace the outgoing John Fallon. Bird will assume the role on October 19, and Fallon will continue as CEO until that date. Bird joined the education publisher in May. He spent 14 years at Walt Disney Co and was chair of Walt Disney International.
US President Donald Trump is considering bypassing normal US regulatory standards to fast-track an experimental coronavirus vaccine from the UK, the Financial Times reported on Sunday. The Trump administration is considering options which include allowing the US Food & Drug Administration to award an emergency use authorisation in October to a vaccine being developed by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and Oxford university, should results from a study being carried out prove successful. However, while the US government's scientific agencies have said that a vaccine would need to be studied in 30,000 people to pass the threshold for authorisation, the study being carried out by Astra only involves 10,000 people. The FT noted that the company is also conducting a larger study with 30,000 volunteers, but highlighted the results from that will come after the smaller trial.
Monday's Shareholder Meetings
Keras Resources - GM re Diamond Creek mine purchase
Starcrest Education The Belt & Road
Kibo Energy - EGM re increase share capital
Pacific Horizon Investment Trust - GM re allotment of new shares
By Tom Waite; firstname.lastname@example.org
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