Regent cheers City with dividend rise

Regent Inns, the quoted pubs group, pleased the City with a 29 per cent interim dividend increase on the back of sharply improved profits.

The shares added 12p to 319p as the company announced that average turnover in its 44 pubs, based mainly in London and the south-east, was 30 per cent up on a year ago.

This helped drive up pre-tax profits by 85 per cent to £1.89m (£1.02m) in the six months to December 1994, with the interim dividend advancing from 1.75p to 2.25p.

Earnings per share rose 73 per cent to 10.7p. Patrick Moorsom, chairman, said four new sites were being developed, with more acquisitions planned.

Focussing on large, liquor-driven outlets was behind an increase in operating margins at Regent to 20.5 per cent (14.6), Mr Moorsom said.

Regent has continued to cut its smaller pubs, and since the start of the year has sold the leaseholds of four sites for a total of £1.3m. Gearing is around 40 per cent and interest cover is expected to be over six times for the full year.

Mr Moorsom said: "The acquisition programme and the continuous refurbishment and rationalisation of smaller units have further improved the quality of the estate."

He added that the group had pegged borrowings for the next 10 years at a cost of 8.78 per cent plus bank margin of 1.125 per cent.