The UK brewer Scottish & Newcastle said today that it was confident of meeting its financial objectives for the year.

Speaking at the AGM chairman Sir Brian Stewart said: "Overall, trading performance for the year has been positive, with improving trends in our three major businesses, the UK, France, and Russia.

"We are confident of meeting our financial and commercial objectives for the year."

The company said results for the year to April demonstrated a "robust performance in difficult markets".

S&N said that the warm weather across Western Europe since May had aided those beer markets boosting seasonal demand. In contrast, the weather in Northern and Eastern Europe was wet and cold in the early part of the summer.

In the UK, the strong demand in the off trade aided by the recent hot weather boosted summer volumes, following a difficult year-on-year comparative period in May and June (with the World Cup and the extended Jubilee bank holiday in 2002).

In France, volumes have been very strong, led by the Kronenbourg 1664 and Kronenbourg brands, which have both gained market share, S&N said.

However, the company said that due to bad weather Finland had suffered a poor summer in comparison to last year, depressing both the beer and soft drinks markets.

"In this context, Hartwall has performed well, with volumes in line with the market, whilst its strong brand portfolio has enabled the company to grow overall value.," it said.

In the second quarter, Russian beer market volumes grew by 8% and BBH increased its share of the market, growing beer volumes by 10%. But net sales growth, positively affected by growing volumes, has been held back in 2003 due to the impact of a 25% increase in excise duty and adverse mix changes arising from the growth of the PET bottles.

In a statement the company said that the sale of its retail business is proceeding to plan. "The board remains confident of completing a transaction before the end of this calendar year, on terms which they expect to be satisfactory to shareholders. As negotiations are currently in progress, the board cannot make further comment at this stage, other than to confirm that trading remains robust," S&N said.