Fuller's upbeat as London defies downturn

Pub company Fuller Smith and Turner said it has experienced growth in all parts of its business, as its London focus gave it resilience to the economic downturn.

Although pub popularity has been very unpredictable, company chairman Michael Turner said in an interview with Reuters, Fuller's - which has a portfolio of 362 pubs and hotels in London and south east England - had made continued progress, with profit up five per cent in the first half.

"This is a solid set of results, driven by growth in all parts of the business," Turner said.

"I think London, in particular, has been more resilient to the downturn. At the moment, however, consumer trends are unbelievably difficult to spot, there's a bigger variation than has ever been the case before."

The company reported adjusted pre-tax profits for the six months to the beginning of October of £16.5m, up five per cent, as sales rose six per cent to £128m.

Managed pubs and hotels, which make up the largest part of the business, were trading well with like-for-like sales up 3.8 per cent in the 33 weeks to 19 November, it said in a statement.

Turner said the company, which has bought 12 pubs since the end of last year, has increased its bank facilities to £120m to support further acquisitions.

"In this market we're able to identify specific sites and are able to buy on an individual basis whereas in the past you had to buy groups of pubs," said Turner.