TENNENT'S Lager owner C&C Group has insisted that acquiring a large pub estate is not its only option for growing its business in England and Wales, as the drinks firm unveiled a solid set of first-half results.

C&C hailed a strong performance by the business in Scotland and Ireland as it reported a 2.7 per cent increase in operating profits to €62.9 million (£49.7m) - a week after the Spirit Pub Company knocked back an initial approach from the company.

Its showing in Scotland and Ireland offset lower than expected contributions from the US and England and Wales.

C&C said its acquisition of wholesaler Wallaces Express had been a key factor as operating profit at its Scottish business rose by 14.3 per cent to €22.4m, with net revenue increasing by 69.1 per cent to €117.7m.

Shares in C&C, which dropped 10 per cent after the approach to Spirit last week, tumbled by a further 8.9 per cent to close at 3.39 cents.

Chief executive Stephen Glancey said there was a compelling case for C&C to strengthen its position in England and Wales by acquiring a pub estate. And he revealed the company would consider other acquisitions if a deal for Spirit does not materialise.

Mr Glancey said: "There are other candidates, clearly, in that space, but we would not want to speculate."

Finance director Kenny Neison said acquiring pubs was not the only option available to C&C as it looks to achieve its optimal structure in England and Wales.

He said C&C were big fans of the integrated model it has followed in Scotland and Ireland, and noted there were opportunities to collaborate with other brand owners to secure "a bit more scale and a bit more muscle in the battle with retailers".

"But equally we could look at downsizing our business in the UK market and becoming a more niche, premium player and working from an export model," he said.

Asked if this would mean job losses, Mr Neison replied: "No, not necessarily. A lot of it is about logistics and how you actually bring products to market and taking out some of the costs associated with that, which is not people-linked."

C&C hailed Scotland and Ireland, which accounted for 86 per cent of the group's operating profit, as the "cornerstone of the group."

Mr Glancey said sales of C&C brands had not especially benefited from the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup, which took place in the reporting period. But he expects more of a boost from the football calendar in the coming weeks.

He said: "In the second half you have actually got quite a lot of big football games. Ireland are in the same European thing (Euro 2016 qualification group) as Scotland and there is a game against England. That will help us compensate for Celtic's poorer performance in the Champions League and the Old Firm not playing with each other."

While Scotland and Ireland starred for C&C, Mr Glancey acknowledged yesterday that the company was evaluating the structure of the business in England and Wales. This came after Magners had underperformed in the UK cider market and its Shepton Mallet division reporting only "modest" improvement in sales volumes and values.

Outside the UK and Ireland, the company reported "encouraging progress across Europe, Asia and Canada." Magners export volumes grew by 19.2 per cent and Tennent's by 12.9 per cent, excluding Australia where a distribution issue has recently been resolved.

However it said its performance in the US had been "disappointing," with its Woodchuck brand affected by many new brands in the market.

"While we have rebased our expectations in the US, the market remains both attractive and dynamic, and we are confident in the longer term prospects for the category generally and specifically for our US cider business."

The company said the approach for Spirit meant it was unable to provide guidance on its full-year performance.