Private Investor: I only back beers I approve of - so research is essential

I enjoy a pint of ale as much as the next man, possibly more, and never invest in a brewery whose beer I don't like. Obviously, this requires a good deal of on-the-ground research, but I try to keep as level-headed as I can about my shares in this ever-fascinating sector.

I enjoy a pint of ale as much as the next man, possibly more, and never invest in a brewery whose beer I don't like. Obviously, this requires a good deal of on-the-ground research, but I try to keep as level-headed as I can about my shares in this ever-fascinating sector.

Thus it was in the early part of 2001, after a short break in Scotland, that I alighted upon Belhaven, a small outfit that I noticed enjoyed a good deal of well justified popularity north of the border. In fact, it is the largest regional brewer.

I bought the shares, as soon as I got south, for about 200p, and they've been defying original gravity ever since. Leisure spending recessions come and go, although it's fair to say that phenomenon has abated recently. Even the smoking ban in Scotland doesn't seem to have had much of an impact on the shares. They had a nasty fall at the end of last year, down to about 400p from 480p or so, but they are now back on an upward trajectory. This year they have seen an extraordinary run, and I notice a fair amount of gossip in the press about the possibility of a takeover.

Actually that wasn't, as I say, why I bought the shares in the first place. They seemed to me then to be a boozy counterpart to AG Barr, another Scottish institution that has served me well, and indeed served well all consumers of its excellent Irn Bru soft drink.

Belhaven is well run, traditional (the oldest brewery in Scotland) and immune to the fads and abuses that seem to characterise so much of the beer trade, hanging on to its pubs, for a start.

However, the brewing industry never seems to stop consolidating. One day we will, no doubt, be confronted by three or four gigantic brewing groups that will dominate the entire scene from South Africa to Russia and back again.

Can Belhaven survive this trend towards globalisation? It doesn't look like it. Thus, only this week, Belhaven has been breaching the 500p barrier with talk of Scottish & Newcastle wanting to take a slurp out of the glass. As it happens, I also own shares in S&N, and there is the chance that it, too, might be taken over by an even bigger group. I can see why, as S&N has shrewdly targeted the huge emerging beer market that is the Russian Federation.

Vodka may be on the rise over here, but over there they are turning to lager. Globalisation at work again, I imagine. Hardys & Hansons, a brewer I ought to have bought into but didn't, has also been up on bid speculation. Still, you shouldn't mix your drinks too much, should you?

At the risk of sounding like some crazed Scotophile, I am also heartened by the recovery in Stagecoach. I've been in there since the float in 1993, and it's been a rough ride at times. Now, though, Brian Souter, boss of this remarkable bus and rail company, has seen his vehicle through the worst of the turbulence, and investors have seen the shares rise from a nadir of 15p to the 100p-plus levels they currently trade at.

I don't especially like Souter's politics, but he is entitled to his views and I can't see it making much difference to the way he runs his companies, admirably laid back and relaxed as he is.

A few years ago, I watched a documentary about Stagecoach's bus operations on the south coast of England which made allegations about its sharp business tactics. The morning after, far from collapsing under the strain of impending scandal, shares rose. They are way off their peaks of over 200p, but at least Stagecoach is heading in the right direction.

The company's results last week confirmed that it is possible to make money out of public transport. Even Virgin Rail seems to be back on track (forgive the pun), and who thought that was ever going to happen? When so much of our public transport infrastructure seems bust and broken, I don't know how these companies manage to make a go of buses and trains, but there it is.

So, Stagecoach is another Caledonian outfit I'm happy to back. Indeed, my dream Scot takes a Stagecoach bus to a Belhaven pub, enjoys a few pints, and next day assuages his hangover with a glass of Irn Bru. Well, I've done it.

My task now is to try to sniff out other Scottish opportunities. Another journey to Skye beckons.

s.o'grady@independent.co.uk

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Parker says: 'I once had a taster use the phrase 'smells like the sex glands of a lemming'. Who in the world can relate to that?'
food + drinkRobert Parker's 100-point scale is a benchmark of achievement for wine-makers everywhere
News
i100
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

    Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

    Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

    £18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

    Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

    £35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

    Day In a Page

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing