Greene King sales growth defies the economic gloom

PUBS and brewing group Greene King continued to defy the economic slowdown over the Christmas and New Year period, new figures showed today.

The Bury St Edmunds-based company said like-for-like sales at Greene King Retail, its directly managed pubs and restaurants division, were up 8.2% over the last seven weeks, with food sales 11.1% ahead on a like-for-like basis.

Average earnings per pub within Pub Partners, its tenanted and leased pub estate, were 5.9% ahead while in its Brewing & Brands division, own-brewed volumes for its core beer brands were 7.4% up on the same period a year earlier.

Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand said: “This was another strong performance driven by the strength of our business and our continued commitment to providing unrivalled value, service and quality to our customers.

“It is clear that even in these difficult times, customers still look for enjoyment and some respite from the financial pressures they are facing.

“Across the UK, the pub becomes the real heart of the community during Christmas. Supported by better weather conditions than in the previous year, we saw record Christmas bookings and our like-for-like sales in Christmas week were up 17%.

“Food sales were �1.7m on Christmas Day alone, and we sold 365,000 Christmas meals in December, another record for Greene King.”

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Greene King said that, for the first 37 weeks of its financial year to date, up to January 15, like-for-like sales from the retail division were up 4.7%, with food showing like-for-like growth of 6.3%.

The group’s three major acquisitions of 2011, Cloverleaf, Realpubs and the Capital Pub Company, had all traded “very well” over Christmas, and further progress had been made under its retail expansion strategy with the addition of a further six sites.

“We continue to expect that full year margins in Greene King Retail will be in line with the previous financial year,” it said.

Pub Partners also continued to perform well, it said, with like-for-like earnings growth per pub of 3.4% in the first 36 weeks of the financial year. Although total like-for-like earnings were 0.4% down, the division’s core estate was in growth for the year so far. A further 21 non-core pubs had been disposed of since the half-year stage.

The Brewing & Brands business was now showing year-to-date volume growth of 2.9%, compared with an overall 6.1% decline in the UK ale market in the five months to November, with Old Speckled Hen, the UK’s number one premium ale brand, among those showing particularly strong growth.

“Overall, our profit, cashflow and balance sheet remain in line with our expectations,” Greene King added.

“Although we expect another difficult environment for the UK consumer in 2012, we remain confident that we will continue to deliver growth and value to our shareholders, driven by the strength of business, our retail expansion strategy and our focus on offering unrivalled value, service and quality to our customers.”