Turnover grew 2% to £138.7m. Pre-exceptional operating profits fell 2% to £10.3m. Turnover in the Beer Company and Pubs decreased by 1% to £96m, “due primarily to the exit from contract work in the brewery in the early part of the year”. Turnover in the Hotels and Inns increased by 9%.
Net debt increased from £56.8m to £57.9m as it continued to invest in the estate and make disposals; Thwaites sold 15 pubs at a net loss of £200,000 after disposal costs, and the company expects more bottom end disposals over the next three to five years.
In its c300-strong Thwaites Pubs division, it completed a further 46 developments at a cost of £3.9m, making returns “well ahead of our hurdle rate of 20%”.
“The performance of our pub estate has benefitted from the sunny summer weather of 2013 and the investments that we have made over the past few years,” the company said.
It added: “We continue to seek to acquire further good quality tenanted pubs with balanced income streams.” Investments have seen the number of pubs that sell food grow by 8%, with 70% of the estate now selling food. This also helped group wine sales, with wine volumes up 9% over the period.
The company said sales of Thwaites ales and beers continued to outperform the market, with own production volumes down 1%, “largely as a consequence of having come away from contract work last year”, in a market down c7%. Cask ale volumes grew 8% on last year, with Wainwright up 31%.
The free trade business had a “good year”, with sales up 2% and growth in operating profit on the previous year.
The new brewery and head office will be located on the A59, at the foot of the Ribble Valley.
Thwaites chief executive Richard Bailey said the investment in the new brewery will allow it to brew a full range of its cask, seasonal and craft ales and “will allow our brewers and team to be completely focused on the quality and consistency of our beers”.
He added: “This is a tremendously exciting day for us, to be able to share where we plan to relocate our whole business to over the coming months. We have been looking for a new site for over two years, and Sykes Holt, Mellor Brook fits perfectly with our vision for the future of the business. We will be applying for planning permission to build our new brewery, head office and a visitor centre.
“Completion of the purchase will take place in six months, in order to allow the current owner time to leave the site. We will be working hard in that time to make sure that as soon as we complete the purchase we will be in a position to start work quickly. We will be working with the planners to create an exciting scheme to make the most of the site, part of which dates back to 1540.
“It has always been hugely important to us that we stay close to Blackburn, which has been our home for over 200 years, and we have been very aware that we would like to safeguard jobs in the area, so I am very pleased that we have been able to find a site that is only a few miles away, where we will continue to employ over 200 people in our head office across our brewery, pubs, inns and hotels. “