Wetherspoon boss on rampage
Martin blasts ‘doomsters’ who ignore Britain’s power
Profits slumped at Wetherspoon (pic: Terry Murden)
JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin repeated his criticism of Brexit ‘doomsters’, saying Britain would be better off leaving to save paying the EU £39 billion.
Mr Martin has been one of the most vocal business supporters of leaving the EU, saying it would be better for Britain to make democratic decisions on trade rather than rely on unelected bureaucrats.
“The vexed debate about Brexit has continued since the referendum, nearly three years ago.” he said. “Although the public voted to leave, the majority of ‘the establishment’, including most MPs, most universities, the Bank of England, the CBI and media organisations such as The Times, the Financial Times and The Economist favoured ‘Remain’.
“The result has been a barrage of negative economic forecasts from those quarters, predicting that the UK will go to hell in a handcart without a ‘deal’ with the EU – which will effectively tie the country into EU membership and taxation, yet without representation.
“The doomsters ignore the most powerful nexus in economics, between democracy and prosperity – and the fact that the EU is becoming progressively less democratic, as it pursues an ‘ever-closer union’, for which there is no public consensus.
“Previous referendum results on major constitutional issues have always been respected in the UK, but if parliament votes either for Theresa May’s ‘deal’ (which keeps us in the EU by the back door) or to remain in the EU, the referendum result will not have been respected. This may well have significantly adverse economic consequences, as the country turns in on itself to endure months, or years, of stifling constitutional argument.”
The company announced profits for the half year to 27 January fell 18.9% to £50.3m from £62m while like-for-sale sales rose 6.3%. The company has maintained a 4p interim dividend.
Mr Martin said the slump in profits was driven by a rising wage bill – up £30m – and tighter consumer spending.
Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell said: “It is well known that Wetherspoon’s chairman Tim Martin has strong views on Brexit but in his headline comments on the results investors may have wanted to see more than two out of seven lines devoted to the company’s first half performance. The remainder is entirely taken up with giving Martin’s perspective on the UK’s exit from the EU.
“Any lack of focus on the day job may be a particular concern given the significant margin pressure which hit profit in 2018. Martin has consistently been at odds with the City over the importance of margins, placing the emphasis on growing sales instead.
“In fairness he can claim vindication from the fact those sales have grown from just a few million pounds 30 years ago to well in excess of a billion pounds today and having delivered substantial capital growth and dividends over that time.
“The group has a clear strategy involving investment in its estate to ensure its pubs are places punters want to spend time in, while offering quick service and cheap pints and food.
“Recent trading has been robust, but the question of margins is not likely to go away given guidance is for cost pressures to continue in the second half of the year. Most of these are associated with staff, where a more competitive jobs market and introduction of the national living wage have affected the company.”