Fuller's fortified for winter challenges

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The Independent Online

Fuller, Smith and Turner, the brewer behind London Pride, hailed the resurgence of cask ales yesterday as it shrugged off any likely fallout from England's failure to qualify for Euro 2008.

Fuller's, which operates 363 pubs across the Midlands and southern England, expects a challenging winter period as it assesses the impact of the smoking ban, but said it was well prepared after investing £3m on its estate in revamping outside areas and improving its food offering.

Its chairman, Michael Turner, said: "Pubs without smoking are much nicer places to be. It is going to be good for the industry in the long term, but it is going to change the manner in which pubs trade."

The company dismissed con-cerns that brewers will suffer after England's defeat by Croatia this week.

"We would be better off with England in, due to the feel-good factor, but it is not something to blame your results on," Mr Turner said, adding that the company was less dependent on football than its competitors.

Fuller's, which is quoted on the stock market but family controlled, reported record half-year figures yesterday, with adjusted pre-tax profits up 11 per cent to £12.1m on a 3 per cent increase in revenues to £93.3m.

Export volumes rose 20 per cent over the half compared with the same period last year after the company entered Russia, China and Japan for the first time. Exports currently account for 10 per cent of volumes.