PIER bosses have blamed poor bank holiday weather and rail engineering work for an expected 18 per cent drop in profits.

In its trading update for the second half of last year, the Brighton Pier Group said work on the line between London and Brighton had affected takings badly but said the resulting improvements would help for the future.

In an announcement to the Stock Exchange it said: “As previously reported, the trading performance of the company’s pier division during the period has been negatively impacted by disappointing weather over the August bank holiday weekend that continued into the following month.

Impact “Additionally, weekend railway services to and from Brighton have been disrupted by a major programme of engineering works, resulting in recurrent line closures (with replacement bus services) on the main line from London between the stations at Three Bridges and Brighton.

“This has significantly impacted the number of visitors into Brighton and on to the pier.

“As such, earnings from the pier have also been lower than expected for the period.

“The company has been informed that these line closures will continue into the second half of the current financial year, including a complete closure over the nine days of February half term and further closures in March, April and May (the start of the pier’s peak trading period).

“However, once the railway upgrades have been completed, the company expects that the improved railway service with fewer interruptions will benefit businesses across Brighton and the trading performance of the pier.”

The board now anticipates that profit before tax for the current financial year will be in the region of 18 per cent lower than current consensus expectations.

Profit The company made a profit before tax of £2,268,000 last year amid a revenue of £31,682,000.

This means the profits could be hit by £400,000.

This is for the whole group, not only the pier, and the group comprises the pier, Eclectic Bars and Paradise Island Adventure Golf.

Anne Ackord, chief executive officer, said: “Whilst I am disappointed at the rail network disruptions currently affecting the pier, once they are complete, this will be of great benefit to future visitors travelling to the city and consequently to our Brighton businesses.

“Despite these challenges the company’s pier, bars and golf businesses remain well invested, strongly cash generative and well positioned for future growth.”

The challenging figures are the latest setback for owner Luke Johnson, whose £160 million worth of shares in Patisserie Valerie were hit by a crisis at that company.

He pumped in £20 million in loans to try to rescue the cafe chain, which has branches in Sussex including Brighton, Eastbourne and Chichester.