Cheers as Greene King toasts a rise in sales

There might be a recession on but folk still need a pint, according to Greene King's chief executive Rooney Anand, who unveiled a 9.4 per cent rise in annual sales to £1.14bn yesterday.

Other measures at the pub owner are heading in the right direction too: profits for the year to April are up 8.6 per cent to £152m and the dividend 24.8p, up 7.4 per cent.

"People have put off big purchases, cancelled the holiday and the flat-screen TV," Mr Anand said, "but they still want to treat themselves. For not that much more than at home, we'll do you a nice drink and a good meal."

Greene King, which is based in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, has been helped by its bias towards London and the South-east, and it reckons the Olympics could be a boon.

"Even if folk aren't fascinated by whoever wins the swimming, they'll get interested in the whole event," Mr Anand said. "It will be an exercise in patriotism not sport."

During the year, Greene King bought the 33 London pubs of the Capital Pub Co for £96m and a further 13 pubs and 16 development sites, while disposing of 115 leased pubs for £30m.

The company has net debt of £1.5bn, up £83m as a result of the expansion schemes. The shares closed up 4.5p at 536p.