[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 6 June 2005, 11:33 GMT 12:33 UK
Smoking ban 'will change culture'
Belhaven founts and pint
Belhaven brews a range of ales
A brewing firm has described as a "major cultural change for Scottish people" the plans for a smoking ban due to come in next year.

Dunbar-based Belhaven made the comment as it unveiled a 23% rise in annual profits to 17.4m.

Belhaven has 270 pubs after opening 44 new outlets in the year to April.

It said the ban on smoking in public places in Scotland "presented opportunities and threats" for the pub industry.

Belhaven, Scotland's largest independent regional brewer, makes Belhaven Best and distributes Tennent's and Stella Artois.

Chief executive Stuart Ross said: "Consumer spending patterns remain inconsistent and market conditions are as challenging as they were last year."

Prediction 'impossible'

The group warned that uncertainty caused by the smoking ban meant its outlook beyond March next year was less certain.

It said it was impossible to predict the impact of the ban on sales and that it did not expect to be immune from the general effect.

"The smoking ban represents a major cultural change for Scottish people and presents both opportunities and threats for the pub industry," it said. Shares were a penny higher at 486.5p.

Cigarette on ashtray
Some licensees expect to be badly hit by the smoking ban

The planned smoking ban in Scotland does not allow exemptions for pubs which do not serve food.

Belhaven's pubs division increased operating profits by 28% to 15.1m as it benefited from the expanded estate.

Like-for-like sales increased by 1.4% at its tenanted pubs as the group repeated a decision taken in 2003 partly to absorb higher lager prices. It said this policy had "undoubtedly" helped tenants and would be repeated this year.

Within its drinks arm, flagship beer Belhaven Best increased sales volumes by 8.6%, reaching the sales landmark of 100 million pints during the year.

Group turnover was 21% higher at 114.4 million. Shareholders will receive a total dividend of 12.35p a share, up from 11.2p last time.


RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific