The Scottish regional brewing force, Belhaven Group, has issued a trading statement saying that the second half of the year to the end of March had been very positive and it expects to meet its profit forecast for the year.

The company said sales in the all-important Christmas period met expectations and volumes in the final quarter had been ahead of plan. The pub estate had been expanded during the second half with the acquisition of 20 pubs in Scotland, the company added.

At the end of the financial year, Belhaven Pubs will be operating 67 managed and 116 tenanted pubs with five other units under development. In addition, on the brewing side, two new lager bottling contracts with Interbrew are expected to commence during the first half of the 2003/2004 fiscal year.

"The underlying strength of the business gives management every confidence that the profit expectation of Belhaven in the current financial year will be achieved," said Belhaven's CEO, Stuart Ross. The Board said that it anticipates another year of growth in 2003/2004.