Belhaven owner Greene King has seen like-for-like sales dip in the first quarter on the back of plummeting beer sales, ahead of its £2.7 billion takeover.

The group said like-for-like sales across the business slid 1.8% for the 18 weeks to September 1, as it struggled to keep up with strong figures from the same period in 2018, which were buoyed by warm weather and the men's football World Cup.

It updated investors ahead of its annual general meeting, just weeks after it announced a deal to sell the entire business to CKA Group, the real estate group run by Hong Kong's richest family.

The company, which was founded in 1799, said the decline in group sales was driven by "softer" beer sales across it pubs.

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Like-for-like net income across its pub partners arm slid 4.2%, as beer sales failed to match the same period in 2018.

The Bury St Edmunds company saw total beer volumes in its brewing and brands division plunge 6.5% during the quarter, while its own-brand volumes dived 7.9%.

Greene King said that it has seen like-for-like sales improve more recently, rising 1.5% over the past seven weeks compared to the same period last year.

It added that the business is on track with a cost reduction programme and expects to limit net inflation to between £10 million and £20 million.

Plans to sell between 85 and 95 pubs during the year are also "on track", it said, as it looks to secure £45 million to £55 million in proceeds to fund the opening of eight new pubs.

Greene King is the UK's biggest pub owner, with roughly 2,700 pubs, restaurants and hotels across the country.

The takeover deal secured last month offered a 51% premium on the value of shares in the brewer, which employs more than 38,000 staff, from trading on the day before the announcement.

CKA, which is chaired by Victor Li, the son of Hong Kong's richest man, agreed the acquisition through newly formed subsidiary CK Bidco, which is based in the Cayman Islands.

The move came just seven months after fellow UK pub group Fuller's sold its brewing business to Japanese firm Asahi.

Scotland's food and drink exports have hit a record high of £3 billion, according to new figures.

The HMRC statistics show exports for these industries rose £296 million (11%) in the first half of 2019.

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The trade figures suggest the growth was driven by whisky exports, which rose 10.8% from the same period last year to £2.2 billion.

The single biggest market for whisky is the EU, which accounts for almost 30% of all exports and has increased by £36 million (6.1%) compared to the first half of 2018.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: "Scotland's food and drink sector continues to go from strength-to-strength, thanks in part to a close working relationship between government and the industry in recent years.

"It's now an integral part of our economy, worth £15 billion, and employs thousands across the country."

The price of a pint of beer in Wetherspoon pubs is being cut by an average of 20p, with the company calling it an example of how leaving the customs union with the EU can reduce prices.

The chain's Brexit-supporting chairman Tim Martin said leaving the customs union on October 31 would allow the Government to end "protectionist tariffs", which he maintained would reduce prices in pubs and supermarkets.

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More than 600 Wetherspoon pubs will sell a pint of Ruddles for £1.69 from Friday, with a further 160 offering a pint for £1.59 or less.

Around 36 pubs will sell a pint for £1.39.

It is the latest Brexit-related move by Wetherspooon, which has shown its commitment to leaving the EU by selling more English and Australian wines over European brands.

Tim Martin said: "A lot of politicians have misled the public by suggesting leaving the customs union would be a 'cliff edge' or 'disaster'.

"This is the reverse of the truth. Ending tariffs will reduce prices."

Ruddles is one of the most popular beers sold in Wetherspoon pubs. Where it isn't available, Greene King IPA or Caledonian Deuchars will be included in the reduced price.