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Marston's is full of cheer as profits rise by 9%

Marston's, the brewing and pub group now expanding into Scotland, kept the City happy yesterday with growth in earnings and dividends, despite a wet summer and the squeeze on pubs.

The group, whose shares are up by one-third in 12 months, posted a 9% rise in underlying pre-tax profit on a 5.5% sales rise to £72 million, while core earnings per share rose by nearly 10%, prompting a 5% rise in the final and total dividend.

The pub division of Marston's headed by Pete Dalzell, interviewed by The Herald last weekend, has plans for up to 10 new pub-restaurants north of the Border, creating 500 full-time and part-time jobs over the next three years in a £25m investment. The first site at Dunbar is under way, with others at Braehead in Glasgow and Shawfair near Edinburgh well advanced.

Dunfermline and Forfar are targeted for early next year, with permissions pending on four more pubs.

"Our results demonstrate good progress in implementing our strategy, despite the challenging consumer environment and exceptionally wet weather over the summer months," the group said.

"We have seen an encouraging start to the new financial year. In managed pubs, like-for-like sales in the eight weeks to 24 November rose 2%, with food sales growth of 3.4%, and wet sales improving by 0.9%. In our tenanted and franchise pubs, profit trends continue to improve steadily and are estimated to be up around 3%. Our beer brands are performing in line with expectations."

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