How 460 real ale connoisseurs have put money where their mouths are

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Putting your money where your mouth is has a special significance for 460 dedicated drinkers of real ale. They are members not only of the Campaign for Real Ale but also of the Camra Investment Club, in which they pool their funds and buy shares in small breweries and pub chains that make and sell real ales.

Like the ethical investment trusts that will not buy shares in companies that create pollution and exploit the environment, the Camra Investment Club is happy to make money for its investors, but there are some things it will not do. The club will never support a takeover bid for a real ale brewer or for a pub chain that supports the sale of real ales.

It also opposed the recent Greenall takeover bid for the Boddington chain on the grounds that Boddington pubs traditionally favour real ales.

The club traces its origin to the Star Investment Club, set up one evening in the bar of the Star pub in Cheadle, Cheshire, but took a quantum leap in 1989 and is open to all 46,000 members of Camra.

It is still small beer in money terms but its active members contribute a regular amount of anything between pounds 5 and pounds 83 a month, which channels pounds 7,000 a month into the pool.

It has holdings worth around pounds 350,000 invested in shares in about 30 listed companies, including Adnams, Fuller's, Hyde's, Jennings, Joseph Holt, Marston's, Morland, Shepherd Neame, Vaux and Youngs.

The club has small stakes in two of the major brewers, Allied Domecq and Bass, and also in Wetherspoons and Regent Inns, the specialised pub chains that sell rather than brew real ales.

The investment portfolio is currently showing a profit of about 15 per cent above cost, with the small brewery sector enjoying the benefits of a long hot thirsty summer, but the investments in Brent Walker, Ascot Holdings and United Breweries are looking a bit sick.

Investors contribute for as long as they wish, 5 per cent of the investment (up to a maximum of pounds 1 a month) goes to cover administration and bank charges, and there is twice-yearly 0.5 per cent management charge on the fund. The net value of the investments is recalculated every month to fix a single price for the units to be allocated, and for members who wish to sell out.

Dividends are reinvested but the club organises regular visits to the breweries where it has bought shares. The last trip was to the Ann Street Brewery in Jersey on 9 November.

The club is run by Neil Kellett, a partner in the Manchester-based firm of chartered accountants Snow, Kellett, which is a member of IMRO, the regulatory body for investment managers.

Call 0161-236-9696 for more information on the club.

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