April's showers dampen Punch Taverns

The wettest April on record was bad for pubs, according to Punch Taverns. There was a "sharp decline in beer sales during this period and this is reflected in Punch sales", the company said yesterday.

Like-for-like sales at the core estate, the ones the struggling company intends to keep, fell 6.4 per cent in the 12 weeks to 26 May. It has 1,713 non-core boozers, of which it intends to sell up to 500 this year.

Its chief executive Roger Whiteside was upbeat, however. "Notwith-standing recent difficult market conditions, the underlying business remains robust," he said yesterday.

Punch Taverns is the rump of the empire built up by former banker Giles Thorley into the biggest pubs company in Britain. Built on debt, it crashed in the credit crunch.