Thirsty hot summer shines on Marston

JOHN SHEPHERD

The hot summer provided a big boost to beer sales at Marston, Thompson & Evershed, the regional brewer based in Burton on Trent. Almost a quarter of a pounds 2.1m rise in half-year operating profits to pounds 15.44m was due to the weather.

Marston, famed for its Pedigree bitter, brewed using the old Union system, also benefited from increased beer sales to the free-trade. The free-trade, including national accounts, and take-home trade now account for 50 per cent of beer sales.

"But while the weather was extremely kind to sales of lager, cider and soft drinks, it was less so to sales of cask-conditioned ales, where volumes were down by 1.8 per cent," said Michael Hurdle, chairman.

Marston succeeded in pushing through price increases, which led to the company's 233 managed houses lifting profit margins by 1.6 percentage points. Rents were also raised across the 644-strong tenanted estate by more than 9 per cent.

The overall advance in pre-tax profits, however, was less marked, due to a rise in interest costs from pounds 761,000 to pounds 1.64m, reflecting the company's strategy to sell low profit-making tenancies and buy more managed houses.

Pre-tax profits for the six months to 23 September totalled pounds 13.9m, up 13.6 per cent. Sales advanced 11.2 per cent to pounds 85.2m. The interim dividend is boosted 42 per cent to 2.5p, the rise largely to remove the disparity between the half-year and final payments.

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