Eldridge Pope up 45% as pub prospects improve

BY WILLIAM GLEESON

Eldridge Pope, the Dorchester-based brewer and licensed retailer, saw pre-tax profit for the first six months to the end of March rise 45 per cent to pounds 879,000, mainly on the back of good returns from its retail investments.

Christopher Pope, chairman, said: "Prospects at the spending level may be changing as the 'Feel-Bad Factor' becomes the 'Feeling-Better Factor' although the 'Feel-Good Factor' remains elusive."

Turnover was pounds 24.7m up from pounds 17.3m in the first half of last year as the company put the troubled early 1990s behind it.

The company said its recent acquisition of a pub chain, Hovetop, had been fully integrated. It hoped Hovetop's full-year contribution would be well up on expectations

Mr Pope said: "Increasingly our pubs are good to look at and even better to be in. We are confident and determined to maintain the forward momentum in bottom-line profits, competitive though current trading conditions may be."

He added that the run up to Christmas saw strong trading but the second quarter was hit by increases in duty.

Business also suffered from some of Eldridge's best pubs being out of commission for lengthy periods as they were refurbished. The company is planning to dispose of low yielding assets and is on the look out for further acquisition opportunities following the success of the Hovetop buy.

The beer and wine division had mixed fortunes in what the company called a "rapidly changing world".

The company is delaying its decision about whether to list on the Alternative Investment Market until after outstanding tax issues have been cleared up.

Trading on the Stock Exchange's latest attempt to set up a secondary market is due to begin in mid-June. AIM is planned to be a successor to both the Unlisted Securities Market, on which Eldridge Pope trades, and Rule 4.2, an occasional dealing facility for thinly traded shares.

The company blames the delay in its decision about where to list after the Unlisted Securities Market closes at the end of next year on "unwarranted delays" by the Treasury in drawing up transitional tax arrangements.

Earnings per share were 3.26p per share compared to 2.3p in the same period last year. The interim dividend is increased by 10 per cent to 1.65p

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