The UK regional brewer and pub operator, Greene King, posted profit before tax and exceptionals of £35m ($55.20m) for the 24 weeks to October 19, 2002, ahead of analysts' forecasts which had predicted first half profits of around £34.5m.

Greene King had been forecasting double digit growth in earnings per share and just met this target with EPS rising by 11% to 32.8p. Turnover at the company, which produces the Greene King IPA, Abbott Ale and Old Speckled Hen beer brands, rose by 17% to £249m.

"Consumer expenditure patterns are unpredictable, but we are confident that the strategic and financial position of the company, the quality of our businesses and the strength of our brands stand us in good stead even if general trading conditions deteriorate," said CEO, Tim Bridge.

Greene King, which operates 1,760 pubs in southern England, said turnover from its pubs division rose by 19% to £152.0m, while trading profit increased by 10% to £25.5m. The company stated that its pubs business had gained from the addition of the Old English Inns and Morrells operations, but following a 0.3% rise in like-for-like sales in the first quarter, comparable sales fell by 0.4% for the half-year.

Sales volume from beer brands rose by 5% with the new volume coming principally from customers outside the pub estate. Greene King said that third party distribution now represents over 75% of brand volumes which it believes underlines the strong consumer franchise of the brands.