James Moore: Cheers to Young's pubs

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The Independent Online

Outlook It's time to raise a glass to the pubs group Young's. It wasn't that long ago that the owner of more than 200 of this country's more convivial hostelries was being criticised for having an "inefficient balance sheet". One particularly unkind soul in the analyst community once went as far as to describe said balance sheet as "flabby".

The reason for this all this opprobrium was that Young's didn't generate lots of fat investment banking fees for analysts' mates in corporate finance departments by mortgaging its future with securitisation deals.

These deals were hugely fashionable a couple of years back and were sold as a way of returning money to shareholders. They are now crippling its rivals. Young's chose the more conservative route of living within its means, taking a conservative approach to debt and rewarding shareholders through the old-fashioned route of a progressive dividend policy – or that and concentrating on its product.

It is still not easy out there for any pub company and like-for-like sales at Young's, flat over the last 15 weeks, are unspectacular. But that needs to be put into context – Young's is not discounting like its rivals and is therefore making money on the beer it sells, which will fund those dividends.

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