... but Bass takes on 7,000 in pubs boom

Bass is to create 7,000 new jobs over the next year as part of an aggressive expansion of its brewing, pubs and leisure empire. The news follows the company's creation of 6,000 jobs last year.

However, Bass is expected to cut jobs through brewery closures if its proposed takeover of Carlsberg-Tetley receives clearance from the competition authorities. There was no news from the DTI yesterday, though some City analysts expect the deal to be referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. "We haven't heard anything," said Bass's chairman, Sir Ian Prosser.

The new jobs will form part of a pounds 670m capital expenditure programme planned by Bass this year. Some 5,500 of the jobs will be in the group's taverns business, where around 200 new sites will open.

The Harvester pub-restaurant chain, the Fork & Pitcher concept of rural inns and the 15- strong All Bar One chain of modern city centre bars will all be expanded.

New branches of O'Neill's, Bass's Irish themed pubs, are being opened at the rate of more than one a week.

Bass's leisure division will add 1,500 jobs during the year with more bowling alleys and 13 larger bingo clubs set to open.

A new concept for next year is the Dave & Busters entertainment centres. These are huge supermarket-sized halls which include bar and catering facilities based around pool tables, virtual reality systems and other amusement machines. The first two centres will open in Bristol and Thurrock, Essex, early next summer.

Bass announced the jobs programme as it reported a 12 per cent increase in pre-tax profits to pounds 671m in the year to 30 September, boosted by strong performances from the Holiday Inn hotel chain, Bass Taverns and branded drinks.

Hooper's Hooch, the market leading alcoholic lemonade, recorded spectacular gains, with Bass selling 320,000 barrels of the brew, compared with 40,000 last year. Sir Ian said there was no evidence to suggest the alcopop boom was a fad.

The Gala bingo subsidiary was hit by the lottery, with admissions down by 13 per cent.

Profits were down at the Coral chain of betting shops due to a pounds 4m hit caused by Frankie Dettori's record-breaking seven wins at Ascot earlier in the year. The meeting fell on the last Saturday of Bass's financial year.

Bass group sales were 12.5 per cent higher at pounds 5.1bn and the dividend was increased by 10 per cent to 25.4p.

Investment column, page 23

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