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Hospitality hit hard by coronavirus || 17-4-2020

The hospitality industry has taken a big hit as pubs and restaurants have been forced to close for weeks, with no immediate end to lockdown in sight.

Mitchells & Butler, which owns Harvester and Toby Carvery, has been one casualty with share prices sliding 7.5 per cent this week.

Last month, the pub chain said it could meet conditions in its debt programme even with significant losses, but it announced this week that it had received a technical waiver on its debt obligations until May 15.

All the pub chain’s sites have been closed and 99 per cent of its employees have been furloughed, leaving its share price at 172.80p at the time of writing.

So, what are the chances of a fightback from the pub chain after the pandemic ends?

The firm were not particularly reassuring to investors, saying in a statement that: “’Great uncertainty remains not only as to the extent of the current shutdown but also the profile of any re-opening and recovery period back to normality.”

It did add though that it had material cash resources that “should be sufficient to fund obligations well into the second half of the year.”

Whether that reserve, along with the latest debt waiver, is enough to weather the storm probably depends on exactly how long the current pandemic lasts.

Premier Inn owner, Whitbread, seems to be faring a little better despite the lockdown after its latest liquidity announcement.

The pub and hotel chain revealed it has access to £400m in cash and £900m in existing credit and the news sent its share price up by 3.9 per cent to 2,800p at the time of writing.

Whitbread confirmed its full year financial performance to the end of February was in line with expectations but that it had been ‘materially impacted’ by the coronavirus crisis in recent weeks as all its pubs, restaurants and hotels were forced to close.

It has suspended all discretionary spending, postponed its dividend and furloughed a significant number of its staff in a bid to preserve cash.

But will that be enough to see Whitbread through to the other side of the pandemic?

Some analysts think so – Numis described the pub and hotel chain as a ‘long-term winner’, upgrading its recommendation from ‘hold’ to ‘buy’.

Others agree, pointing to its fast action in cost cutting and its financial strength which could help it to win market share from its peers once the current crisis is over.

As with most of the hospitality trade, Whitbread is at the mercy of the length of the pandemic to a certain extent, but it looks to be one of the stronger sector contenders to be back pulling pints when this is all over.

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Accendo Markets considers opinions and information contained within the research to be valid when published, and gives no warranty as to the investments referred to in this material. The income from the investments referred to may go down as well as up, and investors may realise losses on investments. The past performance of a particular investment is not necessarily a guide to its future performance.

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