Punch sinks to £350m loss after writedowns

The debt-laden pubs operator Punch Taverns made a half-year pre-tax loss of more than £350m after it was forced to write down the value of its tenanted estate.

Punch, which plans to demerge this summer, said its managed estate's operating profit and underlying sales grew strongly in the 28 weeks to 5 March. But like-for-like net income fell by 7 per cent at its wet-led leased pubs that rely heavily on drink sales. Punch has reduced its net debt to £3.08bn from £3.28bn in August.

Ian Dyson, the chief executive, said yesterday: "We have had a good start to the third quarter and are on track to meet our full-year expectations."

Nevertheless, the company slumped to a pre-tax loss of £350.7m, following exceptional items of £465m which were largely related to a writedown in the value of 2,400 of its tenanted pubs.

After the demerger, the managed house company Spirit will operate up to 950 outlets. Its leased operation, Punch, will nearly be halved from 5,402 outlets to 3,000 "high-quality pubs" by 2016. Walker Boyd is joining the board and will become chairman of Spirit following the demerger.

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