Greene King sales boosted by sunshine

ER a

ER and pub owner Greene King yesterday said warmer weather had boosted trading in the last eight weeks as drinkers flocked to sunny beer gardens.<br /><br />The group, which owns City pubs Golden Fleece and The Old Tea Warehouse, said like-for-like sales were up 5.2 per cent at Greene King&rsquo;s managed pubs in the first eight weeks of the new financial year, with its own-brand beer volumes up 12.1 per cent.<br /><br />Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand said: &ldquo;Mortgage costs have come down and the cost of living has come down a bit too, which has helped. Whether this is green shoots of recovery I don&rsquo;t know because we&rsquo;re still cautious on the unemployment outlook.&rdquo;<br /><br />The group&rsquo;s recent performance shows Greene King is beginning to shrug off the slump which has afflicted the sector.<br /><br />Pubs have been hit by consumers scaling back spending and stiffer competition from supermarket promotions on booze.<br /><br />The group said pre-tax profit for the 12 months to 3 May fell 15 per cent to &pound;118.5m, ahead of forecasts of &pound;115m.<br /><br />The Suffolk-based company, which brews Abbot Ale and Old Speckled Hen, said its full-yearrretail like-for-like sales rose 1.7 per cent to &pound;942.3m.<br /><br />Last month Greene King successfully raised &pound;207.5m through a rights issue to acquire pubs from struggling rivals and buy back debt.<br /><br />Soon after, it snapped up 11 pubs from heavily indebted pub group Punch Taverns.<br /><br />KBC analyst Paul Hickman said: &ldquo;Greene King has the firepower to take advantage of developing opportunities.&rdquo;<br /><br />Shares in the company closed up three per cent at 422p.