Adnams, the UK brewer, wine merchant and pub owner, has reported a 7% lift in sales and a return to profits for the first half of 2009.

Net sales for the six months to the end of June rose by 6.8% to GBP23.4m (US$38.7m), compared to the same period of 2008, said Adnams in its half-year accounts, adding that it performed "better than expected".

The group also returned to the black, reporting net profits of GBP591,000 for the six months, against losses of GBP114,000 last year.

Beer sales outperformed the UK market, rising 2.4% against an industry decline of 2.8% for the half-year, said Adnams, which has committed to holding beer prices level for the rest of 2009.

"It is most gratifying for a company such as Adnams, with a strong cask beer heritage, that this sector of the beer market has shown some revival," said chairman Jonathan Adnams.

"Industry statistics show that cask beer volumes were 1% higher in the first six months of 2009 than they were in the same period in 2008. However, for on-trade beer as a whole there was a decline of 5.3%. We were pleased to sell 2% more of our own beer in this period."
During the half-year, Adnams ended a 12-year wine distribution deal with London City Bond and took distribution in-house at its Reydon facility. "This gives us more direct control over customer service and lowers our costs," it said.

Debt levels "are sustainable", said the group, which added that net debt was GBP14.3m at 30 June, having risen from GBP12m at the end of 2008 due to the firm spending GBP3m on new pubs in March.

New products have been added to the Adnams portfolio during the six months. The firm said it will be distributing Greek beer Mythos and, following success on the Aspalls cider brand, which it currently distributes, the group will also distribute Hogans cider.

Earlier this year, Adnams became embroiled in a row with one its shareholders over corporate strategy.