National ale sales do Fuller's proud

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Rising sales of London Pride are giving a lift to London brewer Fuller's as it continues to grow nationally.The company saw volumes of its cask ales...

Rising sales of London Pride are giving a lift to London brewer Fuller's as it continues to grow nationally.

The company saw volumes of its cask ales rise by five per cent over the past year in the face of a declining market.

A record £16m of investment in its 220-strong estate, including new concepts, has also been turned into increasing profits.

Chairman Anthony Fuller warned that it faced a challenging 12 months, including start-up costs for another 11 new outlets.

"The last year saw many exciting developments at Fuller's, although for part of the year we saw a reluctance by consumers to spend," he said.

Sales of its core brand London Pride were up six per cent in the year to March 27, alongside a five per cent increase in ESB. This pushed up beer profits by 31 per cent to £2.69m.

Fuller said: "At a time when several breweries are closing, we continue to invest in production facilities to meet the increasing demand for our beers."

He said like-for-like sales at its pubs for the year had been flat but since then had improved, currently up by one per cent.

The family brewer is to continue rolling out its café-bar concept, The Fine Line, which has expanded to nine since its launch last year, including a site in Bristol.

The award-winning concept helped to make the company one of the finalists in this year's Publican Awards.

Its other new pub brand, The Broadwalk, has taken the company further out of London to Reading in Berkshire and Portsmouth in Hampshire.

New sites are being opened for its traditional Ale & Pie format, plus new concepts such as bar-restaurant The Fence in Farringdon, North London, and stylish bar Vesbar in Shepherd's Bush, West London.

The company's 95 tenancies suffered a seven per cent drop in profits because of sites being transferred to managed.

But like-for-like profits were up one per cent despite a three per cent drop in barrelage.

Fuller said: "We continue to invest in our tenanted estate although on a much smaller scale than our managed inns business."

The inns business, which also includes its hotels, increased profits by nine per cent to £14.56m over the year, with turnover up 17 per cent to £72.4m.

Added to the boost from its chain of off licences, this helped to push up profits for the group by 11 per cent to £14.21m.

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