LONDON -- Shares of Mitchells & Butlers (LSE: MAB.L ) slipped 11 pence to 320 pence in early London trade this morning after the firm said it would not pay a dividend for the fourth consecutive year.
The pub and restaurant group, which owns the Harvester, Toby Carvery, and All Bar One chains, said it was "mindful of the attraction of the resumption of dividend payments and will continue to monitor net cash flow generation."
The statement came alongside full-year results, which showed the FTSE 250 member lifting sales by 3% to 1.9 billion pounds and adjusted earnings by 6% to 30.5 pence per share.
This time last year, Mitchells & Butlers said it would "continue to monitor operating cash flow generation and capital investment opportunities before taking a decision on the timing and quantum of the resumption of dividend payments."
And the year before that, the firm said it was "committed to a resumption of dividend payments" and would "closely monitor the level of operating cash flow generation and capital investment opportunities for the business during 2011 before taking a decision on the timing and quantum of the resumption of dividend payments."
Clearly a lot of cash flow monitoring has taken place during the last few years.
Shareholders of Mitchells & Butlers last saw a dividend during 2008, when an interim payment of 4.55 pence per share was declared. Back then, the company reckoned its timetable for paying back debt would mean the dividend suspension would last until only 2010.
Today, Mitchells & Butlers referred to a forthcoming "triennial pension valuation" as a reason to postpone a further decision on the payout. However, this morning's results showed operating profits of 304 million pounds and a net pension deficit of just 88 million pounds on the balance sheet.
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