Solihull-based Enterprise Inns has slammed new Government licensing application forms as "unnecessarily complicated" - but said that its pub chain would comfortably meet its expectations for the first half of its financial year.
"The board expects that both operating profit and profit before tax will be comfortably in line with its expectations," Britain's largest pubs operator said in a trading statement, adding that the business had continued to perform well since its annual shareholder meeting on January 20.
The company, which owns 8,663 leased and tenanted pubs across Britain, is enjoying the strong market for its community-based pubs in contrast to more testing times for many large town centre establishments.
"There was reasonable trading across the estate and I think the strong performance is really down to the quality of our pubs," said chief executive Ted Tuppen.
Mr Tuppen also said that new licensing laws, due to come into effect from August, were unlikely to have any significant financial impact for the group.
"I don't think the new laws are going to make any particular pub or chain hugely profitable overnight, however, it will remove some of the current silly inflexibilities that exist in licensing."
Mr Tuppen also criticised the Government for issuing licence application forms late and making them " unnecessarily complicated".
He said: "The group is continuing to work alongside our licensees to help them through the application process. We provide them with the detailed plans of their pubs that the form requires - a task that would be far more complicated for a sole trader to complete."
Enterprise also said the integration of the Unique Pub Company, whose 4,000 pubs it bought a year ago, was expected to produce cost savings of about £27 million a year against the £25 million previously anticipated.
Mr Tuppen said about half of the benefit was a result of the closure of its Unique's head office and the remainder came as a result of stronger buying power when renegotiating contracts.
Mr Tuppen, who led a management buy-in to form the company in 1991, said Enterprise did not have any large-scale acquisitions in its sights and would even shrink its estate as it concentrated on bigger, better quality pubs.
"There aren't the large scale estates of sufficient quality out there for us to buy now," said Tuppen.
" Our ten-year plan envisages maybe 100 or so pubs a year being bought and 150 or so being sold as we get rid of the smaller, less viable underperformers."
Earlier this month Enterprise announced that it had sold 41 pubs to Admiral Taverns in a deal worth £10.5 million.
Enterprise will continue to concentrate on investing in existing pubs, allocating £40 million to £50 million to the task, said Mr Tuppen.
"Our strategy is really investment and churn. Improving our good pubs and selling our not-so-good pubs. I believe that good pubs do well and get better and bad pubs do badly and get worse.
"Therefore, you should only ever have good pubs." Enterprise now planned to invest in its existing pubs and sell off those that did not fit its criteria.
The group was looking at selling between 100 and 200 pubs a year, although it would still consider acquisitions if anything suitable turned up.
For the full year, a consensus forecast of 19 analysts polled by the company predicted pretax profit of £291 million.
The estimates ranged from £272 million to £300 million. The company is due to report results for the six months to March 31 on May 17.