Punch Taverns' profits fall 20 per cent

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The Independent Online

Punch Taverns, the debt laden pubs chain, saw profits sink 20 per cent as the group continued to struggle in the "challenging conditions" for the industry.

The group – which is searching for a new chief executive after Giles Thorley last month announced he was to leave the group after nine years – reported pre-tax profits had fallen to £66m in the 28 weeks to March 6, from £82m the previous year. Shares in the company fell 1.35p to 96.65p following the announcement yesterday.

Its chairman, Peter Cawdron, said: "There is no doubt that conditions remain challenging across the economy and especially in the pub sector." The group also revealed it was paying £2m a month to support struggling tenants.

Punch has been cutting costs and selling off assets in an attempt to slash its debt pile. It said yesterday that it had cut debts by £1.2bn in the past 18 months, to £3.2bn. The group said it was on track to raise £300m from asset sales.