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; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Manchester United are believed to have made a £15m bid for Marcos Rojo
sportWinger Nani returns to Lisbon for a season-long loan as part of deal
News
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
O'Toole as Cornelius Gallus in ‘Katherine of Alexandria’
filmSadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Life and Style
fashion
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
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

    Business Anaylst

    £60000 - £75000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: Business Anal...

    Senior Project Manager

    £60000 - £90000 per annum + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Global leading Energy Tra...

    Associate CXL Consultant

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

    Oil & Energy Business Anaylst

    £45000 - £75000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: Harrington Sta...

    Day In a Page

    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

    A wild night out

    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

    It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
    Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

    Besiktas vs Arsenal

    Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

    The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

    Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment