JD Wetherspoon Irish pub plans ‘in limbo’

British pub group JD Wetherspoon has effectively put its Irish growth plans on hold until it assesses its performance in city centre locations. It has five pubs in Ireland, four in suburban Dublin and one in Cork, and has plans for more.

JD Wetherspoon Irish pub plans ‘in limbo’

However, its progress has been curtailed by slow movement in gaining planning permission for new developments in Dublin city centre.

Speaking yesterday on the back of a strong set of interim results, Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said its Irish bars have been trading well and are, on average, busier than its UK bars.

He said Wetherspoon is still committed to opening more sites in Ireland, but is in limbo regarding its expansion until it can fully assess how well it can perform in city centres.

The group has two undeveloped sites in Waterford and Carlow. Its priorities for its Irish operations lie with two city centre locations each in Dublin (at Camden St and Abbey St) and Belfast. These will effectively act as a bellwether for future developments here, it seems.

While the Camden St plan, which also includes a hotel development, has attracted local opposition, the fact that Wetherspoon has acquired listed properties has added to the planning process.

In terms of timelines, Mr Martin said it is unlikely that Camden St will open this year, but said the Abbey St property may.

The Camden St development is likely to be a nine-month project if final approval is granted.

Mr Martin also said that Wetherspoon is still struggling to agree suitable supply deals with the likes of Heineken and Diageo here to the extent that it is not serving Guinness in its pubs and is importing the Heineken products it sells.

However, he said that the group can overcome this and has most mainstream alcohol brands and can find substitutes for those it does not stock.

He said the chain is doing a good trade in the growing number of craft beer labels on the market.

On a group basis, Wetherspoon yesterday reported a 1.4% annualised rise in half-year revenues (for the six months to late January) to £801.4m (€917m).

Before exceptional items pre-tax profits were up by almost 43% to £51.4m, while earnings per share jumped nearly 52% to 33.8p.

The full-year dividend of 4p per share was maintained.

In a research note, Goodbody Stockbrokers yesterday said based on the interim figures it expects to increase its full-year 2017 earnings forecast for Wetherspoon by around 1% to £120m.

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