Wetherspoon shares higher after raising cash at top end of expectations



© Reuters. Signage is seen on a window of a closed Wetherspoon pub, London

(Reuters) – Britain’s Wetherspoon priced its sale of 93.7 million pounds ($127.92 million) worth of new shares at the top end of its expected range on Wednesday, a signal of confidence from investors that pushed the pub operator’s shares 3% higher in morning trade.

The cheap beer specialist said 8.4 million new shares had been placed at 1,120 pence per share – a discount of over 5% to Tuesday’s closing price, but the proceeds raised were at the top of the range it had given when announcing the offer a day earlier.

“We like Wetherspoon’s relentless consumer focus, employee engagement, largely freehold estate and history of evolution. This profile should allow JDW to fast return to its former profitability,” Jefferies analysts said.

Following strict COVID-19 led curbs in December, England went into its third national lockdown earlier this month.

The pandemic-hit hospitality industry has laid off thousands of workers, with Wetherspoon cutting jobs at its head office and airport pubs.

The company said on Tuesday it expects pubs to remain shut until March and that the fresh funds would provide enough liquidity to deal with very low sales after reopening.

It is also considering buying properties in central London, freehold reversions of pubs of where it is currently the tenant, and properties close to successful pubs in an effort to cash in on declining property prices.

“It has a young customer base who have been less fearful of venturing out when restrictions do ease, which does bode well for recovery unless there is another twist in the trajectory of the virus,” Hargreaves Lansdown (LON:) analyst Susannah Streeter said.

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Wetherspoon, which has seen no sales since shutting all its pubs from Dec. 31, had expected the placing to raise between 92.1 million pounds and 93.7 million pounds.

($1 = 0.7325 pounds)

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