Fizzing Easter sales soften tough trading conditions for Greene King

Greene King IPA ale being poured, as two of the UK's biggest pub companies are set to join forces af

Greene King IPA ale being poured, as two of the UK's biggest pub companies are set to join forces after they agreed a takeover deal worth £773.6 million: Yui Mok/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Pub group Greene King said it suffered tougher trading in the second half of its financial year, despite record sales at Easter and Valentine's Day.

Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand

Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand - Credit: Archant

The Bury St Edmunds-based firm, which runs around 1,900 pubs and restaurants, said in an update that like-for-like sales edged up 0.4pc in the 51 weeks to April 26, hindered by strong comparatives against last year and the impact of new drink driving legislation in Scotland.

The new laws came into force before Christmas and limit drivers to 50mg of alcohol in blood, down from 80mg and making it lower than the rest of the UK.

Greene King, which owns the Hungry Horse and Loch Fyne brands, said without this law like-for-like sales would have been 0.8pc higher.

It added that during the Easter period it achieved record sales with 800,000 diners over the long holiday weekend, with same-store sales up 2.4pc.

On Valentine's Day it secured record sales of £4 million, boosted by Prosecco volumes up 150pc and shifting over 3,600 oysters at its Loch Fyne outlets.

Greene King, like a number of pub companies, targets families, women and food sales, rather than traditional single male customers.

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A decision from watchdog the Competition & Markets Authority is expected by next Monday on the £774 million takeover of Spirit Pub Company to create a firm with more than 3,000 managed and leased pubs.

The business, which owns IPA and Abbot Ale, added that brewing volumes were up 4.1pc during the period, with its leading ale Old Speckled Hen up 15pc.

The EDP Top100 firm added that it would invest the latest 1p cut in beer duty announced at the Budget to recruit more staff across its pub estate.

N+1 Singer analyst Sahill Shan said: 'The update reinforces the story of the last 12 months of a lack of underlying momentum despite an improving consumer backdrop. This update reinforces our view that the Spirit deal is needed to help revive growth.'