Published: 08:00, 06 March 2018
| Updated: 08:00, 06 March 2018
Beer and pub company Shepherd Neame increased sales and profits despite the weather affecting the number of people eating out.
The Faversham-based brewer, which is Britain's oldest, established in 1698, increased volumes from its own beers by more than 4% in the first half of its financial year.
This was at a time when the overall market slipped 0.4% according to the British Beer and Pub Association.
The firm, which owns and operates 322 pubs across Kent and the South East, also reported a slowdown in food sales amid "increased competitive pressure".
However, it was able to increase turnover by 6% to £84.1 million as it focused on developing its existing beer brands, as well as introducing new ranges like Cinque, Five Grain Premium Lager and Orchard View Cider.
Chairman Miles Templeman said: "Weather conditions, which benefitted our coastal sites in 2016, have been less favourable in 2017, and the eating out market has come under increased competitive pressure.
"However, the company derives strength and balance from the different financial and market characteristics of the various parts of the business.
"Thus, although the rate of growth of food sales in our managed pubs has slowed, drinks sales have performed well, the like-for-like tenanted performance has been good and the brewing and brands business has enjoyed strong underlying growth over the prior year."
Shepherd Neame increased underlying earnings by nearly 5% to £12.1 million, giving it an effective operating profit of £7.9 million, up 4%, and pre-tax profit of £5.8 million, up 3%.
However, its actual pre-tax profit fell by 17% to £5.5 million owing to planned charges of £1.5 million caused by its exit of a contract to produce Asahi beer.
In the 26 weeks to December 23, 2017, the company sold 138,000 brewers' barrels of beer, equivalent to 39.8 million pints.
The majority of these sales were made in the UK although it also exports to more than 35 countries.
Chief executive Jonathan Neame said: "Despite more challenging trading conditions, the company has had a solid and satisfactory performance in the first half of the financial year.
"The strength of the business lies in our balanced strategic approach across each of our trading divisions.
"Thus, where the rate of growth of food sales in our managed estate has slowed, drinks sales have performed well, the tenanted like-for-like performance has been good and the brewing and brands business has enjoyed strong growth.
"We are a well invested business and are well positioned to navigate any future economic and political headwinds.
"In the second half, we have some exciting plans to develop our pub estate further and the brewery will undergo on-going modernisation."
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