Page last updated at 08:47 GMT, Friday, 23 January 2009

Marston's moves to help landlords

Sign on Marston's Park Brewery in Wolverhampton

Pub and brewing company Marston's has said it is absorbing the rising cost of lager to protect its outlets as they battled a "difficult" market.

Marston's also said it would not raise the cost of its own beers, which include Pedigree, Jenning's and Banks.

Struggling landlords were also getting financial support including additional discounts and lower rents "where appropriate", it added.

Like-for-like sales fell 6% in the 15 weeks to 17 January.

The Wolverhampton-based company has around 2,250 pubs and bars in England and Wales, including 506 managed pubs under the brands Tavern Table, Two for One and Pitcher & Piano.

It employs about 12,000 people.

'Competitive'

Marston's said it had decided to "mitigate the impact of recent substantial price increases from the major lager brewers".

The move, along with freezing prices on its own beers until at least September, was made to "keep tenants in place and maintain the stability of the estate", a spokesman said.

The company said the move would protect sales and margins in a "competitive environment".

Marston's managed pub division reported like-for-like sales - which strip out the effect of new pub openings - down 2.9% on the same period last year.

It said that trading over Christmas and New Year had improved slightly but that it had been more subdued since then.

The purchase of the the Oxfordshire-based Wychwood Brewery in April, had helped increase beer volumes, it added.

Marston's has been a vocal critic of the level of taxation on alcohol.

Like other pub firms it has had to contend with the smoking ban, poor weather last summer and the deteriorating economic climate.

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