Adnams hit as Britons' thirst for a pint wanes

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Adnams, the Suffolk brewer, estimates that 39 pubs are closing every week, and has revised profit predictions for 2008 below the previous year's pre-tax level of £7.5m.

The pub trade has been hit by the combined impact of the smoking ban, rising duties, supermarket discounting on alcohol, and falling consumer confidence. Adnams' beer sales were down 6 per cent last year, against a total market decline of 8 per cent. The on-trade market, which covers sales outside the company's own pubs and makes up 93 per cent of Adnams' beer business, dropped by 10 per cent. Not only was trading in pubs and hotels hit hard over November and December, but the falling value of sterling against the euro and the dollar has also eroded margins in the company's wine business.

Meanwhile the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said that total sales dropped 8.3 per cent in the last quarter of 2008 compared with 2007 – the equivalent of 2.2 million fewer pints every day.

The BBPA is calling for scheduled duty increases to be frozen. Rob Hayward, chief executive, said: "We are not asking for a tax handout, we just don't want our tax burden to be made worse."