Bury St Edmunds: Greene King “encouraged” by sales growth

PUBS and brewing group Greene King today reported a 5.1% increase in like-for-like sales for its retail business over the summer, despite the poor weather and the economic downturn.

In a trading update issued ahead of its annual general meeting later today, the Bury St Edmunds-based company said there had been a “minimal” net impact from the Olympics, with trading in central London generally quiet while the suburbs were noticeably stronger.

Growth within the retail division, which includes pubs, restaurants and hotels under the company’s own management, was led by food sales, which were up 5.2% on a like-for-like basis in the 18 weeks to September 2.

However, drinks sales also performed well, with like-for-like growth of 5.0%, and room sales were 4.9% ahead on a comparable basis.

Within the group’s leased, tenanted and franchised pubs business, average earnings per pub were 3.5% ahead after the first 16 weeks of the financial year, although like-for-like earnings within its core estate were down 0.5%.

And core brand volumes within its brewing business were down 0.9% over the 18-week period, although total beer volume was up 0.4% with both Old Speckled Hen and Greene King IPA contributing good volume growth.

Overall, Greene King said that its margins, profit, cashflow and balance sheet remained “in line with our expectations”.

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Looking ahead, the company’s statement added: “We believe underlying trading trends across the business have been maintained through the summer, despite the disappointing weather. This is encouraging for the rest of the year, although we expect consumer confidence to remain subdued.

“However, we remain confident that our retail growth strategy, combined with our focus on delivering excellent value, service and quality to our customers, will continue to deliver earnings and dividend growth for our shareholders.”

: : The Spirit Pub Company, owner of the Chef & Brewer and Fayre & Square brands, said today that sales across its managed estate rioe 4.1% in the 12 weeks to August 18.

However, Spirit said it had reduced the value of its estate of pubs by �500million to �1.3billion because the majority were on its books at acquisition cost.