Scottish & Newcastle, the brewer of Kronenbourg, Foster's and John Smith's, said its profits before tax and exceptionals last year climbed 15 per cent to £507m as it revealed talks to sell its pubs division were progressing well.
Tony Froggatt, who yesterday presided over his first results presentation after taking the helm seven weeks ago, said a shortlist of about five candidates would be drawn up by August. The company revealed in April that it wanted to sell its 1,450-strong pubs arm, and is hoping to get a cash offer for the estate, which could be worth up to £2bn.
Mr Froggatt is able to tell potential buyers that the division was performing well, with operating profits up 6.5 per cent to £228m and sales up 4 per cent to £1.05bn. The new chief executive joined S&N from Seagram and took over from Guy Dickson. Brian Stewart is now the non-executive chairman of the company.
Sales across S&N were up 19 per cent to £5bn, although sales through UK pubs fell by 2.5 per cent in the year.
Mr Froggatt said: "The short-term prospects for the major markets in which S&N trades are difficult to predict. Recent trading has been encouraging, but persistent low consumer confidence makes us cautious as to the extent of the recovery overall."
He began stamping his authority on the company by announcing three new board positions. He wants to bring on board a marketing director, a systems director and a operations director.
Selling the pubs business, however, is Mr Froggatt's second priority behind sorting out problems in its supply chain in the UK. Operating profit at its beer division dropped 8.9 per cent as costs in its supply chain spiralled.
The acquisition of the Finnish brewer Hartwall is beginning to pay off, with profits at Baltic Beverages Holding, which it acquired through Hartwall, up 17 per cent as sales climbed 27 per cent. BBH owns the market-leading Russian beer Baltika, which S&N is about to launch into the UK.
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