Drinks firms may go to full listing

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MERRYDOWN WINE and Hoskins Brewery are prepared to move up to a full listing, should the Stock Exchange abolish the Unlisted Securities Market, writes John Shepherd.

Barrie Hoar, chairman of Hoskins, said: 'We are entitled to a full listing, it is not too difficult to do it. In fact I've just started our 1993/94 business plan and in the appendix I've pencilled in USM versus full listing.'

Merrydown also said its transition was inevitable. 'Whatever happens we will go to a full listing. I can't tell you when we will do it. There are tax implications to be taken into account,' Richard Purdey, chairman, said.

Both companies announced their intentions alongside results that conformed to the flat trend of the drinks sector.

Merrydown, maker of cider and soft drinks, saw pre-tax profits dip from pounds 943,000 to pounds 760,000 in the six months to 30 September. The interim dividend is 1p, a 12.5 per cent rise on the comparable scrip- issued adjusted payment.

Profits at Hoskins, which recently overcame an attempt to oust the board, were a static pounds 50,000 in the same six-month period. 'This company has had to deal with the worst recession since the war, falling consumer demands and asset deflation,' Mr Hoar said.

A large part of that picture was also on show yesterday at Greene King, the regional brewer and pub operator, which announced a fall in half-year profits from pounds 9.9m to pounds 9.5m. Overall, beer volumes across the company's 825 pubs fell slightly.

The figures from the brewer, Greene King IPA, were dented further below the line by pounds 2.7m of extraordinary charges, relating to its failed bid for Morland in the summer. Retained profits dropped from pounds 7.2m to pounds 2.6m.

Simon Redland, chairman, said he was keeping his options open with regard to Morland. He put the annual carrying costs of the 29 per cent stake held by Greene King at pounds 1.75m, net of dividends.

He did not rule out a further bid but said: 'Another contested bid is not an attractive option.'

Shares in Greene King, which are fully listed, rose 2p to 468p, compared with the 530p peak hit during the Morland fight. Investors will receive an unchanged interim dividend of 3.7p.