Fuller provides for pounds 500,000 losses in fraud

Fuller Smith & Turner, the west London brewer, may have lost up to pounds 500,000 in a wide-scale fraud also involving an Asian bank, an embassy and two charities. Anthony Fuller, chairman of Fuller's, revealed yesterday that the group had made an exceptional provision of pounds 500,000 for the full cost of "certain leasing contracts entered into in the last 18 months which appear to consist of little substance and/or over-inflated values".

Mr Fuller said the problem had come to light recently, but would not give further details because of civil actions pending. Fuller is understood to be ready to defend a writ it has received from one of its leasing companies in connection with the dispute and is making a complaint to the industry's trade body, the Finance and Leasing Association.

It may also make representations to the Office of Fair Trading, which investigated the leasing industry in 1994.

News of the provision accompanied Fuller's results for the year to 29 March, which showed pre-tax profits growing 3.5 per cent to pounds 11m. Excluding exceptional items, profits were 7.7 per cent ahead, on turnover up 12 per cent to pounds 102m, the first time sales have broken through the pounds 100m barrier. Dividends for the year on the A and C shares will rise 9 per cent to 10.03p after a 6.93p second interim payable on 1 July to beat any changes to advance corporation tax the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, may announce in the following day's Budget.

However, Mr Fuller said he hoped the new Government would address the problem of differential duties with France, which has led to a flood of imports across the Channel.

The company announced it would be nearly doubling its advertising spend on its leading London Pride beer brand from pounds 566,000 to over pounds 1m this year.

Television advertising, which the group started for the first time in April, will go national on Sky Television later this month during the British Lions rugby tour of South Africa.

Volumes of London Pride topped 100,000 barrels last year for the first time, with the 7 per cent growth comparing with a 13 per cent drop in the cask-conditioned market. Mr Turner said beer volumes for the group were 13 per cent up this year, with the retail and wholesale businesses ahead of target. "We will make good progress during 1997 and 1998," he added.

Capital spending is expected to roughly match last year's pounds 16.2m. The group has plans to extend its 101 managed pub estate, with a new Ale & Pie outlet in the City's Cornhill to be known as The Counting House, and other pubs in the West End of London, Battersea and Bristol all due to open this year. A third "English Inn" hotel is planned for a site just south of Blackfriars Bridge in London.

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