Greene King toasts profits rise

British pubs and brewery group Greene King reported a higher first-half pre-tax profits, benefiting from an upturn in trading as consumers struggling to cope with economic pressures sought solace in their local pub.

The 212-year-old Suffolk based firm, which has 2,410 pubs, said the consumer environment remained challenging with cost inflation rising ahead of wage inflation and discretionary spending being squeezed.

"In this environment, the on-trade drinking out and eating out markets are performing well, delivering an 'everyday indulgence' to the UK consumer," the company said.

Britain's pub sector is providing a rare bright spot among the economic gloom, with Marston, Mitchells & Butlers, Young's and Fuller's reporting rising sales and profits.

Greene King, whose chains include Hungry Horse, Old English Inns and Bellhaven, said on Thursday pretax profit before exceptional items rose by 5.6 per cent to £77.2m in the first half to 16 October.

Numis analyst Douglas Jack had forecast a seven per cent rise to £78m.

Pubs are benefiting from increasing demand for casual dining as customers trade down from eating out at restaurants.

Greene King said drink sales had risen by 9.9 percent with food sales up 16.3 per cent.