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Marston’s scraps 2020 dividend entirely as it boosts liquidity to ride out lockdown

The pub chain has agreed to borrow an additional £70mln through an increased 180-day bank facility, which coupled with government help and other assistance meant it will have enough cash until the end of the current financial year

Marston’s PLC - Marston’s scraps 2020 dividend entirely as it boosts liquidity to ride out lockdown

Marston’s PLC (LON:MARS) said it is planning for “no dividends for financial year 2020” as the pub chain boosted its liquidity to ride out the effects of the UK’s pandemic lockdown on its pubs.

The FTSE 250 firm said it has agreed £70mln in additional liquidity through an increased 180-day bank facility, saying in combination with government support, deferred tax payments and rent and rates relief this will provide it with enough cash to meet its obligations beyond the end of the current financial year even if its pubs remained closed.

READ: Marston’s secures waiver to avoid loan breaches as a result of coronavirus lockdown

Marston’s also said it had agreed with its banks to amend its covenants for September 2020 and March 2021 and that it had convened a meeting of its bondholders for 29 May to seek a number of technical waivers and amendments.

While the group said it had made “good progress to date” towards it debt reduction targets, the temporary closure of its estate and the additional borrowing meant the trajectory of the strategy will be impacted “for the time being”.

Meanwhile, Marston’s said it was continuing to take a “highly prudent approach” to management during the period of closure, adding that its board members had volunteered for significant cuts in pay and fees.

The group also said that the impact of coronavirus on its financial performance will “depend on how the situation develops and over what timescale, which remains uncertain”.

“Pending further guidance from the UK Government and in view of the continued uncertainty surrounding the re-opening of the pub sector and how that may be achieved, we have to prepare for the possibility that the current state of lock-down within the hospitality sector may continue for some months”, the firm said.

Despite the uncertain outlook, analysts at Peel Hunt upgraded the stock to ‘buy’ from ‘add’ alongside a target price cut to 60p from 140p, saying the additional liquidity “should accommodate a £2mln/week cash burn under full pub closure until the £70mln facility matures in 180 days”.

The broker also said it was adjusting its forecasts to assume four months of closure, followed by trading under social distancing rules for the rest of the calendar year.

Marston’s shares fell 2.5% to 29.3p in early deals on Thursday.

Quick facts: Marston’s PLC

Price: 64.65 GBX

Market: AIM
Market Cap: £426.92 m

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