Shares in UK pub giant Mitchells & Butlers, backed by Irish horse-racing magnates JP McManus and John Magnier, jumped on Thursday after it said sales grew by 6.5 per cent to record levels across five key days around Christmas.
The Birmingham-based company, in which Mr McManus and Mr Magnier hold a combined 23.5 per cent stake, said overall like-for-like sales increased at an annual rate of 5.6 per cent during the three-week festive period. Sales advanced 2.6 per cent in the 14 weeks to January 4th, the company’s financial first quarter.
The company did not provide actual sales figures in a trading statement issued on Thursday.
"We are pleased with our trading performance over the festive trading season against a strong set of results last year, again demonstrating the breadth of appeal of our brands for special occasions," said Phil Urban, group chief executive. "This continued progress reflects the output of our Ignite initiatives which will continue to be our focus for the year ahead."
Shares in Mitchells & Butlers rose as much as 5.7 per cent in early trading in London to £4.455 (€5.24).
"The results are proof that management continue to perform very well operationally," said Paul Ruddy, an analyst with Goodbody Stockbrokers. "A myriad of incremental initiatives and high levels of investment in its estate are combining to deliver consistent sales growth."
Mitchells & Butlers, created through the merger of two breweries in 1898, operates more than 1,700 pubs under a number of brands, including Harvester, Toby Carvery, All Bar One, and O'Neill's. It reported £2.24 billion (€2.63 billion) of sales in its last financial year to the end of September.
So far this year, it has completed 81 conversions and remodels and opened one new location.
Mr Ruddy said that followers of the wider sector will be cheered by Mitchells & Butlers’ update, the first among big pub players in the UK this year.
“The clouds which hung over October and November due to wider macroeconomic challenges seem to have cleared with consumers willing to go out and spend in December – hinting that sunnier skies could lay ahead,” he said.