Scottish & Newcastle to roll out themed pubs

Scottish & Newcastle, Britain's largest brewer, is planning an aggressive expansion of some of its branded pubs and restaurants to take advantage of the growing popularity of themed bars and bistros.

The group plans to promote its Chef & Brewer chain as upmarket pub-restaurants and develop 35 outlets by the end of this year with a target of 150.

The Barras & Co community pubs will also be rolled out over the next two years after successful trials in the North and South-east. There are currently 24 of these bars with 10 more planned by the end of the year.

Scottish & Newcastle made the announcement yesterday, as it unveiled better-than-expected results for the six months to 27 October. Pre-tax profits rose by 26 per cent to pounds 195m boosted by strong performances from the brewing division Scottish Courage. The figures, which included a full contribution from last year's Courage acquisition, were supported by improved margins on the group's main brands such as John Smith's, Theakston's and McEwans.

Scottish & Newcastle's figures were achieved in spite of another poor performance at Center Parcs where profits fell from pounds 171m to pounds 164m. Management said consumer confidence was improving in some countries such as Germany which was helping bookings. Brian Stewart, chief executive, denied the division was for sale but said: "Everything is for sale at a price."

Scottish & Newcastle's group sales were 24 per cent higher at pounds 1.66bn in the period. The shares reacted positively, rising 22p to 661p.

Investment column, page 20