British pub chain JD Wetherspoon has posted an 8.5% rise in first-half profit and said it was confident in its prospects for the year after a strong start to the second half. 

The firm, which has grown to over 900 pubs on demand for its popular food and drinks deals, said its profit before tax and exceptional items for the 26 weeks to January 26 rose to £37.8m, up from £34.8m a year ago.

First half revenue rose 9.1% to £683.2m, with sales at pubs open over a year up 5.2% in the six month period.

The firm said that momentum had extended into the first 6 weeks of its second half with underlying sales up 6.7%.

Wetherspoon, which will open its first pubs in Ireland this year, is aiming for between 40 and 50 new openings in the UK, a rate it told Reuters in January it expects to achieve for the next decade or so, as it continues it focus on growing sales over margins. 

The firm said today it was confident of a "reasonable outcome" for the full-year. According to a Reuters poll of 13 analysts it is expected to post a profit of £78.66m, up 2.3% on 2012-13.