Bury St Edmunds-based Greene King maintains like-for-like growth in sales

Greene King has issued a third quarter trading update.

Greene King has issued a third quarter trading update. - Credit: Archant

Pubs and brewing group Greene King today reported a 1.1% increase in like-for-like sales across its flagship retail pubs business.

A pint of Greene King IPA.

A pint of Greene King IPA. - Credit: Archant

The Bury St Edmunds-based company, the UK's largest operator of directly managed pubs, said the figure for the 40 weeks to February 5 reflected 'a strong Christmas trading period alongside the usual quieter months of November and January' since its half-year results.

Excluding its Fayre & Square pub restaurant chain – which is not among the five key retail brands indentified for growth following its £773m acquisition of the Spirit Pub Company in 2015 – Greene King said like-for-like (LFL) sales within the division were 1.6% higher.

'LFL sales over the three Christmas weeks were up 4.5%, despite tough comparisons with the previous Christmas,' said Greene King in a third quarter trading update.

'Sales were driven by particularly strong growth in London. We again broke our record for Christmas Day with sales of £7.4m, up 6.0% on the previous year.'

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Like-for-like net income at Greene King's leased and tenanted pubs division was up 3.5% at the 40-week stage, which the group said maintained 'its strong performance this year'.

However, within the brewing business, own-brewed volume was down 4.2%, compared with a 3.8% reduction in the overall cask ale market.

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Greene King said it had made further progress with the integration of the Spirit business, with more than 1,000 pubs now converted to the enlarged retail business's 'best of both' IT system.

It also said it had made continued progress in reshaping its pub estate, reaching its target of 11 new acquisitions – six for the Farmhouse Inns brand and five for Hungry Horse – while 59 pubs had been sold so far this year, generating total proceeds of around £35m. A further 50 to 60 pubs are expected to be sold this year, raising proceeds of £30m to £40m.

Greene King added: 'Looking ahead, despite continued economic uncertainty and significant cost pressures, we will remain focused on building our retail pub brands, delivering great experiences to our guests and completing the Spirit integration.

'We are confident that the combined strength of our brands, pubs, people and cash generation leaves us well placed to deliver another year of progress, value creation and returns for our shareholders.'

In its half year results, announced in November, Greene King reported a 14.6% increase in profit before tax and exceptional charges to £139m, with the 24 weeks to October 16 including a full contribution from the Spirit businesses.

This also saw group-wide revenues top £1bn at the half-way stage for the first time, rising by 13.8% to £1.044bn.

All three business divisions recorded growth in operating profit for the first half, including an increase of 12.4% for the managed estate to £154.5m, 19.1% for the tenanted estate to £43.7m and 0.7% for brewing and brands to £14.8m.

The acquisition of Spirit in July 2015 left Greene King with a portfolio of around 30 different pub and restaurant formats. It plans to reduce this to around 10 with five being earmarked for growth, including the flagship Greene King identity along with the Hungry Horse, Flaming Grill, Farmhouse Inns and Chef & Brewer brands.

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