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THE INVESTMENT COLUMN: Hardys & Hansons can brew up a treat for investors

HARDYS & HANSONS was created from the merger of two family-owned brewers in 1930, and the clans still control it through extra voting shares. As a result, it has a low stock market profile, although the retirement of Richard Hanson as chairman last year nudged corporate governance in the right direction.

Not that the company's performance has been at all dissatisfactory. It is an old-school mix of brewing, pub and restaurant assets, including more than 250 pubs concentrated in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Yorkshire. Of its venues, it manages about a third directly, with the rest rented to tenants. Its cask ale has declined in popularity but the company has moved with the times and puts on a very strong food offering at its community- focused venues.

The annual meeting yesterday was told that turnover in the managed pubs is up 4.5 per cent in the period since 2 October, but that the company is having to absorb higher minimum-wage costs and utility bills. That's nothing new. Nor was the warning that growth from new properties will be a little lower this year because of the difficulty in finding good value sites. Shareholders can take comfort that it will not overpay for acquisitions, that its properties are very conservatively valued on the balance sheet, and that there is scope to increase payouts to shareholders beyond the current 3.4 per cent dividend. At 580p, buy.