Greene King sales boosted by sunshine

BREWER 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.