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Report on Marston’s AGM

23rd January 2024

The Marston’s 2024 AGM was again held at The Farmhouse at Mackworth, a Marston’s venue on the outskirts of Derby. In advance of the meeting, the club had submitted two written questions, firstly seeking an update on trends in cask ale sales and secondly drawing attention to the date clash with the M&B AGM and asking if future AGMs could be held in hybrid format.

In response to the first question, the company said that cask ale remains available at over 900 pubs across the estate, and they are taking actions to support the category in lower volume outlets. Cask sales have seen a slight decline in the past 12 months whilst sales of stout and craft keg beers have increased. Their range is primarily sourced from CMBC, with pubs in Wales also having access to Brains beers. With respect to meeting arrangements, they will consider hybrid meetings and will contact M&B about seeking to avoid future date clashes.

I attended the meeting at Mackworth along with around two dozen other shareholders. A trading update issued on the morning of the AGM said that sales over the festive period were ahead of last year by around 8%. At the meeting, the new CEO was introduced to shareholders. As he had only been in post for two weeks, following the departure of his predecessor in December, the company update was delivered by the Finance Director. As the estate is primarily community based, the ambition is for Marston’s pubs to be known as the ‘best round here’ for food/sport/cask ale. In the past 12 months, customer satisfaction and engagement scores have all increased.

When the Chairman invited questions, I took the opportunity to raise the club’s profile with the new CEO by asking about his own views on cask ale. He answered that he recognised its importance and is an occasional drinker. Other questions included criticism of the continued absence of dividend payments, and the non-availability of shareholder discounts in company hotels.

Following the meeting, I took the opportunity to speak with both the CEO and the FD to press home the importance of cask ale and the opportunity for the company to develop and promote the style.

Ian Brindley – CMIC Committee Member