The UK's largest regional brewer Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries has said that its performance so far this year is in line with expectations. The performance, the company said, was backed up by targeted investments and good summer weather.

Total like-for-like sales in the Pathfinder Pubs, the managed pub division, during June, July and August were 5.2% ahead of last year. In the 51 weeks ended 20 September 2003, total like-for-like sales were 3.6% ahead of last year and, on an un-invested basis, like-for-like sales for the year to date are now positive.

The Union Pub Company tenanted pub division has similarly traded strongly, with like-for-like sales increasing by 4.1% during June, July and August, and by 2.7% for the 51-week period as a whole.

The company said that WDB Brands traded in line with expectations, with return on capital continuing to improve.

Chief Executive Ralph Findlay said: "We continue to achieve good results in a very competitive market, reflecting our focus on running high quality, freehold community pubs and our strong, value-based offer to consumers. Although costs will rise further in the current year, we aim to maintain margins through further investment in our pubs and beer brands, and increased efficiencies.

"In responding to the challenges facing our industry, we derive real advantages from operating three distinct pub and brand businesses. I am confident that our proven strategy, high quality assets and local expertise will enable us to continue delivering value for our shareholders."

In the trading statement W&D said that the recently improved range of lager brands retailed throughout the business should generate additional profits of approximately £1m per year going forwards.

In doing so, contractual obligations in respect of Harp Irish Lager have been settled at a cost of GBP3.2 million, which will be accounted for as an exceptional item in the full year results.

W&D also said that rising employee and regulatory costs, including the increase in the national minimum wage, would affect the group. The one-off cost of implementing licensing reform next year, including helping tenants and lessees to prepare for the changes, is also estimated at £1 million.