Greene King bullish for 2010 as food sales give it a boost

PUB group Greene King said yesterday it was confident of meeting its full-year profit forecasts, boosted by strong sales of food, although it remains cautious on the outlook for consumer spending.

The company, which has around 2,500 pubs in England and Scotland, said in a trading update that retail like-for-like sales were up 3.6 per cent in the 49 weeks to 11 April.

It said it had seen food sales rise with a good trading performance at its Hungry Horse and Old English Inns brands.

The Suffolk-based firm added that it saw second-half margins being broadly in line with last year and said this year’s acquisitions were trading ahead of expectations.

In brewing, the company said it had continued to outperform the market, with own-brewed sales volumes up 3.9 per cent.

The group also reported stronger than expected sales from recent acquisitions after spending £86m – almost half of last year’s rights issue proceeds – on bolstering its estate and buying back debt cheaply.

However, Greene King said it remained cautious for the remainder of 2010 “as election uncertainty, rising taxes, public sector cutbacks and fragile consumer confidence may continue to limit consumer spending”.

The company said it was confident of meeting profit targets for the year after the “strong” performance.

It expects to give out £6m to support publicans who are struggling, which compares with £2m a month at Punch Taverns.