Greene King has brought a little cheer to a tough UK pub and beer sector by reporting strong trading for the first nine months of its fiscal year and a rise in beer volumes.

Like-for-like sales rose by 4.3% for the 38 weeks to 24 January, against the same period a year earlier, said Greene King today (27 January).

"All of our businesses are winning in the marketplace and gaining market share, enabling us to deliver profitable growth despite the challenging conditions," said the Suffolk-based brewer of Old Speckled Hen and Abbot Ale.

Own-brewed beer volume sales rose by 7% for the period, against a UK beer market down by an around 5% on average over the last 12 months. The firm's Scottish beer, Belhaven Best, reported volumes up 15%.

"We continue to expect volume growth to moderate in the second half of this financial year, given the extremely strong performance delivered by [our] brewing company in the final months of the previous financial year," said the firm.

A relatively strong balance sheet has helped Greene King to take advantage of difficult times for larger players in the UK pub sector.

The firm also announced today that it will acquire a further eight freehold, food-led pubs from Punch Taverns, the country's largest pub group, for GBP15.9m. Punch is seeking to cut debt and has been forced to offload pubs in a market that last year saw around 50 outlets across the industry closing down every week.

Greene King will fund its latest acquisition with proceeds from a GBP200m rights issue in 2009.