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Pub group Mitchells & Butlers recovers as customers return

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Cause for celebration at Mitchells & Butlers, the group behind pubs, bars and restaurants including Browns, All Bar One and Toby Carvery.

It said this morning that it had returned to profitability and cash generation in the period since Covid restrictions were lifted. It reported a full-year operating profit of £81m — though it still made a pre-tax loss of £42m. Roughly 80 per cent of sales came in the six months to September, showing the extent of the bounceback.

A “challenging” trading environment and “cost headwinds” continued to put pressure on the sector, M&B said. But boss Phil Urban struck an optimistic tone thanks to the strength of consumer demand.

Are hospitality businesses being too optimistic about the winter ahead? Or are they justified in thinking the outlook has brightened? Tell me what you think at citybulletin@ft.com.

Briefly

Vitol, the world’s largest independent oil trader, has struck a deal to take Africa-focused petrol station group Vivo Energy private again in a deal which values Vivo’s equity at £1.8bn, a 25 per cent premium to last night’s closing share price. Vitol owned 55 per cent of Vivo before it floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2018 and now holds a 36 per cent stake, with Helios Investment Partners holding 27 per cent. Helios is voting in favour of the takeover.

The Financial Reporting Council said companies have more to do on disclosure around board appointments, succession planning and diversity, in its annual review of reporting against the UK Corporate Governance Code. It also said a greater focus on reporting the effectiveness of internal control and risk management systems could improve confidence.

A UK-headquartered medical cannabis company has announced its intention to float on Aim. Equinox International Holdings said it was seeking to raise funds to build “a state of the art cultivation, extraction and production facility on a Home Office-approved 20-acre UK site”.

And Hochschild Mining welcomed an announcement from the Peruvian government yesterday which backtracked on unilateral mine closures. Shares in the London listed company rebounded in Wednesday trading after shedding 25 per cent of their value on Monday.

Beyond the Square Mile

Deutsche Bahn whistleblowers alleged fraud at Germany’s biggest infrastructure project, Olaf Storbeck reports from Stuttgart. One of the employees was fired during an internal investigation that cleared managers of wrongdoing; the other cut off contact with compliance staff fearing retaliation. The employees alleged that some senior staff at the state-owned railway misused corporate funds as part of a widespread fraud. Deutsche Bahn says it has investigated the complaints but did not find anything untoward. The full story from Olaf is well worth a read: you can find it here.

Jamie Dimon has apologised (twice) to China after telling a group of US business leaders that the bank he runs, JPMorgan, would outlast the Chinese Communist party. Joking about the centenary of both the party and the bank, Dimon said “I’ll make a bet that we last longer,” adding: “I can’t say that in China. They are probably listening anyway.” In one of his apologies, he clarified that he was “trying to emphasise the strength and longevity of our company”. Oops.

And for something completely different: read how crypto miners in Kazakhstan (not something I was aware of, certainly) face a bitter winter of power cuts. Martha Muir reports how illegal miners and mass relocations after a ban on crypto mining in China have overloaded the energy grid.

My column this week is on how businesses struggle with the art of raising prices.

If you do want something different, though, try Claer Barrett on how the lights going out at Bulb signal a worrying new stage in the energy crisis.

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