- Pub chain JD Wetherspoon posted a 15% rise in first-half profit but pulled its interim dividend amid a recent significant slump in sales owing to the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Pre-tax profit for the six months through 26 January rose to £57.9m, up from £50.3m on-year. Revenue rose 4.9% to £933.0m and was up 5.0% on a like-for-like basis.

The company, however, warned its strong performances wouldn't be replicated in the second.

'We now anticipate profits being below market expectations, so long as the current health scare continues,' it said.

'As a result of this uncertainty, it is impossible to provide realistic guidance on our performance in the remainder of the financial year.'

In the week to 15 March, sales declined by 4.5% and in the early part of the current week, following the prime minister's Boris Johnson's advice to avoid pubs, sales had declined at a 'significantly' higher rate.

Most capital projects would be delayed and the interim dividend was cancelled in an effort save costs.

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