Greene King takes on high end to win firms’ parties

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Rooney Anand, chief executive of Greene King, said the group’s Christmas bookings were already up 7.2% on last year.

He said prosecco, champagne, cocktails, digestifs and aperitifs were a reason that businesses were switching to host their Christmas parties at his pubs.

“With the range of drinks that we offer it is not a compromise to come to our pubs… it is a great option for a company Christmas party.”

Greene King, which operates nearly 2000 pubs in the UK and is taking over rival pubs group Spirit, reported a record half year, with sales up 3.3% to £614.9 million.

However, pre-tax profit slipped 3.5% to £82.6 million due to the sale of nearly 300 of its pubs earlier this year.

Sales for the period excluding the disposals were up 5.3%.

Anand said the group had increased its retail estate and disposed of “non-core tenanted pubs” to improve the “quality” of its property.

Greene King now focuses on serving food in pubs but said demand from customers who come only to drink was still strong as it offered a wide range of options from beer and wine to tea and coffee.

Despite the strong sales growth at the Abbot Ale brewer, Anand warned wage growth is an issue and said: “With real incomes struggling to grow, customers remain cautious about spending on eating and drinking out.”

Its summer trading period was tough compared with a record summer the previous year but autumn sales had been helped by the mild weather.

He added: “Consumers are clever and careful and now budget for what they will spend.”

The group increases its dividend by 4.6% and said it is on track to complete the £770 million-plus purchase of Spirit by the spring. It awaits shareholder approval of the deal, which will see it grow to 3100 pubs, with more than 1000 in the capital.

This will make it the third-largest group in terms of pubs but the largest in terms of sales in the UK.

With combined sales of more than £2 billion a year the enlarged Greene King will far outstrip rival Enterprise’s £640 million and Punch’s £460 million of sales.

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December 4, 2014 |
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