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Punch is hit as customers stay at home

Profits at Punch Taverns, one of the country's biggest pub operators, tumbled by a fifth in the six months to March as cash-strapped consumers stayed at home.

Pre-tax profits fell £8m to £33m on revenues 5 per cent lower at £265m.

Punch said yesterday that the main blame lay with the 2,000 or so pubs which it is still looking to sell or close as it concentrates on its "core estate" of the best 3,000 outlets. It expects to sell 400-500 pubs this financial year.

The group also said present trading remains tough and the third quarter in 2011 benefited from exceptionally good weather and the Royal Wedding. But Punch still expects a boost this year from the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, Olympics and European football championship.