Fuller, Smith & Turner has posted a steady start to the year, despite volatile summer weather and the recent introduction of the smoking ban in the UK.

The company said today (24 July) that its tenanted pubs and hotels unit, Fuller's Inns, performed in line with expectations, with a reported increase of 5.4% in like-for-like sales in its managed pubs for the first 16 weeks to 21 July. Its brewing arm saw volumes grow in what the company called "a competitive market place".

Since the end of last year, the group has reportedly paid GBP8m (US$16.5m) into its pension fund, reducing the year end pension deficit from GBP16m to GBP8m.

Fuller, Smith & Turner chairman Anthony Fuller said: "The smoking ban came into effect on 1 July, but it is still too early to identify its effect on sales. Indeed a far greater daily influence has been the variable weather at the height of the English summer - a challenge which we have learned to expect and address through the years. The board is confident of the prospects for the continuing success of the group."

The group confirmed that it is seeking permission to have a five-for-two split of its GBP1 and GBP0.10 shares, converting every two GBP1 'A' or 'C' shares to five new GBP0.40 shares and every two GBP0.10 'B' shares into five new GBP0.4 shares.

Today also sees Anthony Fuller CBE step down as chairman. Fuller will remain on the board as a non-executive director and has agreed to become president after his retirement. Michael Turner, who has been the chief executive since 2002, takes over as executive chairman of the group.

The company said that its next report will be in November, when it issues its 26 week trading statement and results to 29 September.