Scots drink-drive limit dents Greene King sales

Greene King boss Rooney Anand
Greene King boss Rooney Anand
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Pubs and brewing group Greene King has admitted that the tougher drink-drive law introduced in Scotland late last year is continuing to hobble its sales growth.

The owner of the Belhaven brewery in Dunbar said like-for-like sales in the 18 weeks to 6 September rose 1.3 per cent – but would likely have been 1.8 per cent higher had it not been for the change in alcohol limits.

Holyrood ushered in a threshold of 50 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood in December, compared with the 80mg that has been retained for the rest of the UK.

Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand has said the law change had an immediate noticeable effect on people’s drinking habits north of the Border.

The company also said in its trading update today that like-for-like sales at the managed estate of the Spirit business it acquired for £725 million earlier this year were up 0.8 per cent in the last 18 weeks.

In a statement ahead of its annual meeting, Greene King said: “Although it is still early in the process, the integration of Spirit is going well and we remain confident of generating at least £30m of cost synergies.”

The deal is expected to complete in October. Greene King said the pace of sales growth picked up as the period went on, with same-floorspace revenues in its retail pub arm up 1.9 per cent in the final ten weeks.

Excluding the continued impact of the drink-drive regulations in Scotland, like-for-like sales in the final ten weeks were up 2.4 per cent.

Greene King, which owns pubs including Doctors and Milnes in Edinburgh and the Cairns bar in Glasgow, said that its pub tenants business saw net income rise 2 per cent in the ­period.

The brewing arm grew 1.7 per cent, with the group highlighting good performances by Old Speckled Hen, Greene King IPA and Abbot Ale “despite strong take-home comparatives due to the World Cup last year”.

One analyst commented: “This is a decent performance, if held back somewhat by the Scottish situation.”