Page last updated at 16:06 GMT, Wednesday, 15 April 2009 17:06 UK

Marston's pubs see sales improve

Sign on Marston's Park Brewery in Wolverhampton

Pub and brewing company Marston's says sales of cask ale and its "value for money" food have lifted sales, although it is cautious about future prospects.

In the past eight weeks, Marston's said sales at pubs under its own management had risen 3.1% from last year.

This compared with a decline of 1.8% over the 27 weeks to 13 April.

The company said that despite the weak economy and challenging trading environment, it would benefit from consumers focusing on value for money.

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

Its brewing arm, Marston's Beer Company, said that sales volumes had increased by 16% in the first half of its financial year.

It said premium ale performed particularly well because of the "increasing popularity of regional cask ales". Its beers include Pedigree, Jenning's and Banks.

The trading update sent Marston's shares up 7.34%, or 11.5 pence, to 168.25p in morning trade, before they fell back to 158p, up just 0.8% on the day.

Keith Bowman, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, said that Marston's financial position looked solid, although debt levels were still a concern.

"With trading in recent weeks improving and a significant refinancing completed back in January, some improvement in investor sentiment appears justified," he said.

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