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Wetherspoon (JD) PLC Annual General Meeting Announcement

17/12/2020 7:00am

UK Regulatory (RNS & others)


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Wetherspoon (JD) PLC

17 December 2020

17 December 2020

J D WETHERSPOON PLC

Annual General Meeting Announcement

Tim Martin, chairman of pub company Wetherspoon, will say at today's AGM:

"2020 has been an extraordinarily difficult year for many businesses.

"As the famous investor Ray Dalio has said, "truth is the essential foundation for good outcomes". Yet the government has relied on information that has often turned out to be untrue.

"For example, Imperial College research in March, which precipitated a lockdown in over 100 countries, including the first major pub closure in history in the UK, was deeply flawed.

"Indeed, lockdowns, the core of the UK's current strategy, have been shown by many studies to be ineffective, and often counterproductive. Examples can be found in appendix 1.

"David Nabarro, of the World Health Organisation, has recently emphasised their destructive effects, especially for the least well-off.

"In Sweden, a country which didn't lock down, relying mainly on social distancing and hygiene measures, the mortalities from Covid-19 were 8% of those predicted by the Imperial model.

"Some UK press stories have deprecated Swedish efforts, but the facts are often misrepresented (appendix 2).

"In fact, in Sweden, the mortality rate from all causes in 2020 is the same as for four out of the last five years (appendix 2).

"In October, the prediction of Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser, of 4000 deaths per day, upon which the government instigated a second lockdown, proved to be wildly inaccurate.

"It seems certain that the biggest flaw in these predictions has been an overestimation of the fatality rate of Covid-19.

"John Ioannidis, often regarded as the foremost expert in the area, has estimated that Covid-19 has half the fatality rate of flu for those under 70 - although this estimate is disputed in some quarters.

"Professors Johan Giesecke, Carl Heneghan, Sunetra Gupta and hundreds of others have also criticised Imperial, SAGE and government policies, as have many health professionals (see the open letter to the Prime Minister, appendix 3).

"The predictions that have turned out to be true in 2020 relate to the effects of lockdowns and government actions on the economy and health.

"Over 800,000 jobs have been lost so far, approximately equivalent to the combined working populations of the cities of Manchester and Birmingham. These job losses are bound to rise sharply in the coming months, without a radical change in government policy.

"Screenings and treatments for many serious illnesses have been drastically reduced, as, for example, the charity Macmillan recently reported ( https://www.macmillan.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/we-make-change-happen/we-shape-policy/covid-19-impact-cancer-report.html ).

"The situation for pubs is dire. All pubs in the UK (as at 16 December), apart from a handful in remote areas, are effectively shut.

"Less than half are able to open as restaurants, only serving alcoholic drinks with a meal - but that is not what pubs were designed for, and is not usually profitable.

"Since the government often relies on false information, rather than truth, its outcomes will inevitably be poor.

"The sources of government information, especially SAGE, in which academics predominate, have often been faulty.

"Due to the conscientious efforts of its employees, bankers and shareholders, and to the loyalty of millions of customers, Wetherspoon may be in a better position than some companies and individuals.

"However, 70% of our premises are shut today, despite expenditure of many millions in compliance with health regulations. In addition, over 50 million pub visits have been registered, using the track and trace system, and there have been no outbreaks of the virus reported to the company."

Appendix 1 - Examples of studies that show lockdowns to be ineffective

E Clinical Medicine (Volume 25, August 2020, 100464)

A Country Level Analysis Measuring The Impact of Government Actions, Country Preparedness and Socio-economic factors on CPOVID 19 Mortality and Health Related Outcomes

Authors: RabaIl Chaudhry, Justynya Bartosz, Sheila Riazi (Department of Anaesthesiology and Pain Medicine, University of Toronto)/George Dranitsaris (Department of Haematology, University of Ioannina, Greece)/Talha Mubashir (Department of Anaesthesiology, University of Texas, Houston)

Was Germany's Corona Lockdown Necessary? (2020)

Authors: Christof Kuhbandner (University of Regensburg), Stefan Homburg (University of Hanover), Harald Walach (University of Poznan and University of Witten-Herdecke), Stefan Hockertz (University of Hamburg)

Comment on Flaxman et al. 2020, Nature

The illusory effects of non-pharmaceutical interventions on COVID-19 in Europe

Authors: Stefan Homburg (Leibniz University, Hannover) and Christof Kuhbandner (University of Regensburg)

Did Lockdown Work? An Economist's Cross Country Comparison (2 August 2020)

Authors: Christian Bjornskov (Aarhus University / Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Stockholm)

Frontiers in Public Health (Volume 8, 19 November 2020, 604339)

A Country Level Analysis Measuring The Impact of Government Actions, Country Preparedness and Socio-economic factors on CPOVID 19 Mortality and Health Related Outcomes

Authors: RabaIl Chaudhry, Justynya Bartosz, Sheila Riazi - Department of Anaesthesiology and Pain Medicine, University of Toronto

George Dranitsaris - Department of Hematology, University of Ioannina, Greece.

Talha Mubashir - Department of Anesthesiology, University of Texas, Houston

Appendix 2 - Wetherspoon Press Release, 11 December 2020

Pub company Wetherspoon says that the results of Sweden's COVID-19 policies have been widely misunderstood.

Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said:

"Whatever way you look at the numbers, Sweden's no-lockdown strategy is working better than the UK's approach.

"According to the respected Worldometer website, Sweden had 1,330 Covid-19 fatalities from 1 November to 9 December, 2020.

"The UK had 16,011 fatalities during the same period. Adjusting for population, the Swedish fatality rate is just over half that of the UK during this period (see appendix 2.1).

"In the last week of the period, to 9 December, the average fatality rate per day was 19 for Sweden and 410 for the UK. Adjusting for population, the Swedish fatality rate was less than a third of the UK's (appendix 2.1).

"Although Sweden has had a better outcome, a Daily Mail headline (7 December) said that a "Lockdown finally looms for Sweden....". The Swedish Prime Minister has specifically said that this is not true.

"The Daily Mail article also said that "Sweden's overall death rate is no worse than in other major countries of Western Europe, such as Britain and France."

"This is misleading, since the Swedish outcome is evidently far better than Britain's.

"Also, the news agency Reuters inaccurately reported (2 December) that "Sweden registered 174 deaths" that day.

"In contrast, Worldometer records only 33 deaths for that day.

"The misleading Reuters' statistics were nonetheless reported as if they were true by both The Daily Telegraph and the Times, among other publications.

"In fact, Sweden's annual all-cause mortality rate in 2020 is in line with the last five years, adjusted for population growth- although the 2019 mortality rate, as has been widely reported, was unusually low (appendix 2.2).

"The Swedish outcome is not surprising, since medical studies have long established that lockdowns don't work.

"As Dr David Nabarro, of the World Health Organisation, recently said, "We appeal to all world leaders to stop using lockdowns as your primary method of control" as they "have just one consequence that you must never belittle and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer."

"The government and SAGE have tried to marginalise Sweden, because it makes their ruinously expensive lockdown policies look absurd.

"Indeed, over 600,000 jobs have already been lost in the hospitality sector alone- with many more set to be lost in the coming months.

"It is not clear is why so many media organisations appear to support the government, by misreporting Sweden's position."

Appendix 2.1

Source: Worldometer

Daily new deaths, Sweden and UK, circa 4pm December 10.

 
           Sweden       UK 
 09-Dec         4      533 
          -------  ------- 
 08-Dec        14      616 
          -------  ------- 
 07-Dec         7      172 
          -------  ------- 
 06-Dec        36      231 
          -------  ------- 
 05-Dec        14      397 
          -------  ------- 
 04-Dec        26      504 
          -------  ------- 
 03-Dec        29      414 
          -------  ------- 
 02-Dec        33      648 
          -------  ------- 
 01-Dec        32      603 
          -------  ------- 
 30-Nov        47      205 
          -------  ------- 
 29-Nov        38      213 
          -------  ------- 
 28-Nov        35      479 
          -------  ------- 
 27-Nov        43      521 
          -------  ------- 
 26-Nov        53      497 
          -------  ------- 
 25-Nov        66      696 
          -------  ------- 
 24-Nov        67      607 
          -------  ------- 
 23-Nov        54      206 
          -------  ------- 
 22-Nov        56      398 
          -------  ------- 
 21-Nov        50      341 
          -------  ------- 
 20-Nov        44      510 
          -------  ------- 
 19-Nov        45      501 
          -------  ------- 
 18-Nov        50      529 
          -------  ------- 
 17-Nov        40      598 
          -------  ------- 
 16-Nov        37      213 
          -------  ------- 
 15-Nov        39      168 
          -------  ------- 
 14-Nov        37      462 
          -------  ------- 
 13-Nov        32      376 
          -------  ------- 
 12-Nov        28      563 
          -------  ------- 
 11-Nov        27      595 
          -------  ------- 
 10-Nov        35      532 
          -------  ------- 
 09-Nov        35      194 
          -------  ------- 
 08-Nov        22      156 
          -------  ------- 
 07-Nov        26      413 
          -------  ------- 
 06-Nov        25      355 
          -------  ------- 
 05-Nov        22      378 
          -------  ------- 
 04-Nov        21      492 
          -------  ------- 
 03-Nov        19      397 
          -------  ------- 
 02-Nov        20      136 
          -------  ------- 
 01-Nov        22      162 
          -------  ------- 
 Total      1,330   16,011 
          -------  ------- 
 

Since 1 November:

 
                       Sweden           UK 
 Daily Average             34          411 
                  -----------  ----------- 
 Population        10,127,530   69,045,834 
                  -----------  ----------- 
 Adj Per Capita           232          411 
                  -----------  ----------- 
 

7 Days to 9 December:

 
                       Sweden           UK 
 Daily Average             19          410 
                  -----------  ----------- 
 Population        10,127,530   69,045,834 
                  -----------  ----------- 
 Adj per Capita           127          410 
                  -----------  ----------- 
 

Appendix 2.2

Source:

   Statista:            Deaths 
   Worldometer:    Population 

Number of deaths in Sweden from 2015 to 2020.

(Annualising 2020 results in 93,855 deaths.)

 
         Deaths   Population    Rate 
 2015    90,907    9,764,950   0.93% 
        -------  -----------  ------ 
 2016    90,982    9,836,007   0.92% 
        -------  -----------  ------ 
 2017    91,972    9,904,896   0.93% 
        -------  -----------  ------ 
 2018    92,185    9,971,638   0.92% 
        -------  -----------  ------ 
 2019    88,766   10,036,379   0.88% 
        -------  -----------  ------ 
 2020    93,855   10,127,530   0.93% 
        -------  -----------  ------ 
 

Appendix 3 - Open Letter From Health Professionals And Scientists To The Prime Minister

" We the undersigned British health professionals and scientists, wish to express our serious concern about the current situation regarding the outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The management of the crisis has become disproportionate and is now causing more harm than good.

We urge policy makers to remember that this pandemic, like all pandemics, will eventually pass but the social and psychological damage that it is causing, risks becoming permanent.

We call for restoration of our normal democratic governance and for politicians to be independently and critically informed in the decision-making process. After the initial justifiable response to Covid-19, the evidence base now shows a different picture. We have the knowledge to enable a policy that protects the elderly and vulnerable without increasing all other health and economic harms and which is not at the expense our whole way of life and particularly that of the nation's children.

'First do no harm' is a basic tenet of medical ethics, understanding that a cure must never be worse than the disease itself. However, there is increasing evidence that the collateral damage now being caused to the population will have a far greater impact in the short and long term, on all sections of the population, than the number of people now being safeguarded from Covid-19. In our opinion, the current measures, and the strict penalties for non-compliance, are contrary to the values formulated by Public Health England, which states, 'We exist to protect and improve the nation's health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities'.

We have somehow reached a situation where the whole of life in Britain, as in many countries, has focused on a single condition and one which is now endemic. 'Zero' Covid is not a realistic option in a global world. In this letter, we highlight many other areas of health and well-being that are now largely overlooked. We also look at an alternative strategy which we believe can best protect the vulnerable, whilst allowing most people to return to near normal life and provide references to just some of the many scientific papers which explain why we have reached this conclusion.

Our current knowledge about covid-19

At the beginning of the pandemic, the WHO predicted a disease that if uncontained would spread to maybe 50% of the world's population claiming 3.4% victims, in other words millions of deaths by a highly contagious novel virus for which no pre-existing immunity or vaccine was available. Measures were understandable and widely supported, as there was concern that unprecedented pressure would be placed on our hospitals. Thus, the stated purpose of the initial lockdown was to "flatten the curve" and protect the NHS. Hospitals rose to the occasion, Nightingale Hospitals were built, no one died for lack of intensive care facilities - a huge credit to the staff of the NHS.

Gradually, as our knowledge has accumulated, it has become clear that objective facts show a different reality. The known global infection rate to date stands at less than 1% of the world population. The true mortality rate is also over-estimated as we now know that many people have very mild or no symptoms and were thus not included in the testing regime at the start of the pandemic in the UK or elsewhere. We also know that serious disease and indeed death are linked to older age and pre-existing health conditions, so it is on protecting this group that we should be concentrating.

It has also become clearer that the pandemic has not exhibited truly exponential growth; rather, it has been shown to follow a classic Gompertz curve from the very early stages of each outbreak. The Gompertz curve is used as the classic model of population dynamics in conditions where there is some limiting factor to the rate of growth. In the case of Covid-19 this observation supports the theory that a level of pre-existing immunity was present in the population prior to lockdown, thus limiting the spread of infection. This pre-existing immunity is probably due to immunity to common cold viruses which, in 40-60% of individuals, is thought to give some protection against Sars-CoV-2. In addition, we now know that exposure to the virus, even without symptoms, generates robust cellular immunity that is likely to have a long duration. Consequently, measurements of antibody prevalence in populations almost certainly give a serious underestimate of both exposure and immunity. It is vital we build on this immunity that is developing naturally in the population. Perversely population lockdowns could impede this process. Indeed, new evidence published this week, reports the potential increase in total deaths resulting from school and university closures. We also know a lot more about effective ways to treat Covid-19, such as early use of anticlotting agents and dexamethasone, plus avoidance of invasive ventilation. Evidence from both Germany and the UK show a significantly lower in-hospital mortality rate in the later stages of the epidemic.

Waiting for a vaccine

This would appear to be the government's main exit plan and is a strategy fraught with risk. We do not know when, or even if, an effective vaccine will become available. Any vaccine is unlikely to give complete protection against the virus and any protection may only be of short duration. A vaccine is also unlikely to provide superior protection to immunity that is developing naturally. Thus, a vaccine is only one tool to help limit viral spread and alone will not eliminate the disease. We feel these facts have not been made clear to the general public, many of whom view a vaccine as a simple solution to the pandemic.

Widely publicised data is exaggerating the current risk

Widespread population testing using PCR is distorting the current risk. Use of such a test in a clinical situation (as in pillar 1) was very helpful as a rapid screen but the testing strategy now seems to be driving policy. The problem of functional false positive rates has still not been addressed and particularly in the context of low prevalence of disease whereby false positives are likely to exceed true positives substantially and moreover correlate poorly with the person being infectious. Alongside this we have the issue that it is normal to see an increase in illness and deaths during the winter months. This is well known in the case of pneumonia and influenza. Any increase in positive cases and deaths therefore needs to be presented in the context of the normal seasonal illness/death rate. It is notable that UK death rate is currently sitting around average for this time of year. The use of the term 'second wave' is therefore misleading.

Adverse consequences of current measures in adults

Social isolation has led to an increase in depression, anxiety, suicides, intra-family violence and child abuse. Fear and persistent stress have a proven negative influence on psychological and general health. Yet fear seems to be the main strategy for inducing compliance with government measures, whether fear of contagion, fear of prosecution or indeed calling on neighbours to report transgressors to the police, leading to further societal fracturing. The way in which Covid-19 has been portrayed by politicians and the media has done little to promote well-being. Metaphors invoking war and an invisible enemy have been widespread, together with phrases such as 'care heroes in the front line' and 'corona victims', fueling the idea that we are dealing with a global 'killer virus'. Pervasive 'stay safe' messages give the impression that normal life has become perilously dangerous. The relentless daily presentation of the rising death toll was unleashed on the population in March, without interpreting those figures, without comparing them to flu deaths in other years, without comparing them to deaths from other causes. As death rates fell, the media swapped to highlighting rising 'cases'. This coverage has induced unparalleled levels of fear in the population and, in particular, indoctrinates young children with a negative and

potentially damaging narrative. Widespread use of masks may well be adding to fear but this is not being considered, despite limited scientific evidence of benefit.

The NHS has been all but shut to non-Covid conditions and delays in diagnosis have been highlighted in general practice and this is beginning to be revealed in rising waiting lists for cancer diagnosis and treatment and excess non-Covid deaths. Moreover, the huge adverse effect on the economy and people's livelihoods will have its own effect on increasing poverty and the health consequences of that, widening the gap between rich and poor.

Adverse effects on children and young people

As a demographic, children are disproportionately affected by the restrictions. Effects on children are particularly concerning especially knowing their extremely low likelihood of serious disease and the small part they play in viral transmission. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has reported delays in referral for diabetes, cancer and child protection issues. Development and growth are also hampered through reduced social and family interaction, exacerbated by the 'Rule of 6'. Reduced access to learning in schools, educational groups, extra-curricular activities, sport, nurseries and baby classes, all impact on children's physical health and on their mental health. Parents at many primary schools are now being asked to wear masks when collecting their children, so despite spending months explaining that this virus is not dangerous to kids or young adults, we are graphically showing them the reverse, adding to levels of fear.

Widespread and excessive testing in educational settings is having an additional impact, exacerbating these issues. The parent group UsforThem has evidence of wide variation in how self-isolation rules are applied, with some schools sending home children with minor coughs and colds who are then refused re-entry to school without a negative test. Whole year groups are sometimes being sent home for a single 'positive' test but with no knowledge whether the child in question is truly infectious. The emotional, physical and economic impact of such measures on young people and families is unparalleled.

Lack of leadership and varied interpretation of guidance by individual educational settings, has resulted in the adoption of disproportionate Covid measures in large numbers of schools, nurseries and other childcare settings. Many of them raise serious issues of child welfare and safeguarding. The lack of any credible milestones to return to normal, cast-iron, full-time schooling, risks causing irreversible harm to the socio-educational prospects of a generation of children.

Another way forward

At present, there appears to be no clear exit strategy, other than waiting for a vaccine. It is clear that this virus has become endemic, yet current 'protective' measures are causing avoidable and likely long-term harm to society as a whole. People's health, quality of life and livelihoods are in peril for a disease with a mortality rate comparable to many other diseases that befall us.

We welcome the proposals by many respected medical professionals in recent open letters in this regard and we ask the government to urgently consider the following strategy:

   1.     Acceptance that Covid-19 will remain as one of several winter viruses. 

2. Public restrictions should be informed by a broad range of independent scientific and medical views, assessed on a benefit to harm ratio and debated in parliament before implementation.

3. Urgently address the unreliability of PCR testing, by adhering to a published cycle threshold cut-off. Discontinue testing of asymptomatic adults and mildly symptomatic children.

   4.     Produce a balanced long-term sustainable plan for dealing with NHS winter pressures. 

5. Consider fully the impact on children, young adults and family life in consultation with those who have the welfare of these groups at heart.

6. Provide factual balanced and contextual advice to the public which allows individuals to manage their own risk.

7. Concentrate efforts on supporting and protecting the most vulnerable. For example, urgently identify health or social care facilities where COVID infected patients can convalesce until no longer infectious, thus avoiding early discharge to care homes.

8. Encourage the return to normal life for the less vulnerable members of society with the understanding that this will help to generate population immunity and thus suppress the spread of the virus in the longer term.

We urge policy makers to remember that this pandemic, like all pandemics, will eventually pass but the social and psychological damage that it is causing, risks becoming permanent.

Authors:

Dr Rosamond Jones , MBBS, MD, FRCPCH (paediatrician, grandparent, #UsforThem)

Dr Charlotte R Bell , MA, VetMB, PhD, MRCVS (immunologist, veterinary surgeon, parent)

Malcolm Loudon , MB ChB, MD, FRCSEd, FRCS, MIHM (consultant surgeon, parent)

Christine Padgham , MSc (medical physicist, parent)

Co-signatories:

Professor Ellen Townsend , Professor of psychology, University of Nottingham, Reachwell.org

Professor Anthony Brookes , Department of Genetics & Genome Biology, University of Leicester

Professor Anthony Fryer , Professor of Clinical Biochemistry, University of Keele

Professor David Livermore , Professor of Medical Microbiology, University of East Anglia

Professor David King , Emeritus professor of clinical psychopharmacology

Professor David Paton , Professor of Economics, University of Nottingham

Co-signatories

Professor Keith Willison , Professor of Chemical Biology, Imperial College, London

Professor Kenneth Strain , Professor of Physics, Glasgow University

Professor Martin Evison , Emeritus Professor of Pathology

Professor Mike Hulme , Professor of Human Geography, University of Cambridge

Professor Richard Ennos , Professor of Biological Sciences, Edinburgh University

Professor Stephen Cooper , Professor of Psychiatry, retired. Grandparent "

Ends.

Enquiries:

   John Hutson                 Chief Executive Officer 01923 477777 
   Ben Whitley                   Finance Director            01923 477777 
   Eddie Gershon              Company spokesman    07956 392234 

Please email any questions to investorqueries@jdwetherspoon.co.uk

Notes to editors

1. J D Wetherspoon owns and operates pubs throughout the UK and Ireland. The Company aims to provide customers with good-quality food and drink, served by well-trained and friendly staff, at reasonable prices. The pubs are individually designed, and the Company aims to maintain them in excellent condition.

2. Visit our website: www.jdwetherspoon.com

3. This announcement has been prepared solely to provide additional information to the shareholders of J D Wetherspoon, to meet the requirements of the FCA's Disclosure and Transparency Rules. It should not be relied on by any other party, for any other purposes. Forward-looking statements have been made by the directors in good faith, using information available up until the date on which they approved this statement. Forward-looking statements should be regarded with caution, because of the inherent uncertainties in economic trends and business risks.

4. This announcement contains inside information on J D Wetherspoon plc.

5. The current financial year comprises 52 trading weeks to 25 July 2021.

6. The next trading update is expected to be the Company's trading update on 20 January 2021.

This information is provided by RNS, the news service of the London Stock Exchange. RNS is approved by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a Primary Information Provider in the United Kingdom. Terms and conditions relating to the use and distribution of this information may apply. For further information, please contact rns@lseg.com or visit www.rns.com.

RNS may use your IP address to confirm compliance with the terms and conditions, to analyse how you engage with the information contained in this communication, and to share such analysis on an anonymised basis with others as part of our commercial services. For further information about how RNS and the London Stock Exchange use the personal data you provide us, please see our Privacy Policy.

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