UK: Marston’s bottled ale volumes up, but profits flat in FY

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FY operating profits flat at GBP16.4m (US$26.3m)
Net sales up by 6.8% to GBP113.7m
Ale volumes up 2% year-on-year
Bottled ale volumes up 18%

Marston’s Beer Company has reported flat full-year profits, but an increased focus on off-trade premium bottled ales boosted volumes.

Operating profits in the 12 months to the end of September crept up by 0.6% to GBP16.4m (US$26.3m), the Wolverhampton-based brewer and pub operator said today (29 November). Sales in the period rose by 6.8% to GBP113.7m.

Overall ale volumes were up by 2% on the prior year, with bottled ale volumes rising by 18%. Premium cask ale volumes saw a 3% lift. The company said it has maintained its “market-leading position” in these two categories, increasing market share in each by around 1%.

Marston’s said its strategy of having “genuinely local ales” in the UK on-trade, and a focus on premium bottled ales in the off-trade, has seen it benefit from “increasing consumer demand for regional beers” – in particular, cask ale in pubs and “high quality premium brands in the off-trade”.

Overall UK beer sales have spiralled downwards in recent years, with brewers pointing to the Government’s beer duty escalator, introduced in 2008, as a major factor. Latest British Beer & Pub Association figures released last month revealed that UK beer volumes fell 5.6% year-on-year in the three months to the end of September.

Marston’s full-year group profits before tax rose by 9.2% to GBP87.8m, while sales increased by 5.5% to GBP719.7m.

CEO Ralph Findlay said: “These results demonstrate resilience despite the weak economy and very poor weather during the summer. All areas of the business achieved increased revenue and profit in the year, demonstrating the continuing appeal of good pubs and beers.”

Looking ahead, Findaly said: “The economy is likely to remain weak for the foreseeable future, but we have a clear, proven strategy, which is appropriate for current market conditions, and which is achieving growth.”

The group also announced chairman David Thompson intends to step down after 35 years with the company. He will remain in the role until a successor is found.