Kent brewer Shepherd Neame has reported that overall trading during the winter months had been tougher than expected, thanks to ongoing weak consumer confidence and the impact of the smoking ban.
Announcing its results for the six months to December 29 2007 the brewer said overall turnover rose 3.7 per cent to £52.4m, while operating profits rose 0.7 per cent to £5.7m.
Pre-tax profits fell 2.3 per cent to £4.7m. Earnings per share were down 3.5 per cent to 27.5p, and the interim dividend was up 5.8 per cent to 4.55p per £1 'A' ordinary share.
Rising raw material costs and softer consumer demand had created an "extremely challenging period" for the sector, chairman Miles Templeman said.
Like-for-like contribution from the group's 323-strong tenanted estate was up 0.6 per cent, and while total like-for-like sales from its 49 managed pubs were down 1.7 per cent. In London, managed pub sales were up 6.3 per cent.
Shepherd Neame's beer volumes were "marginally down", said Templeman, although the group's key brands had performed well, he added.
Templeman said he expected the difficult trading conditions and the impact of cost inflation to "persist throughout 2008", but added that he expected both the group's pubs and brands to outperform the market.