The UK regional brewer Young & Co's reported yesterday that it had seen a rise in profit before tax of 7.1% to £5.0m, for the first half of the year ended 27 September 2003, as summer weather boosted sales.

John Young, chairman, said: "The summer weather provided a welcome change after several difficult years and the benefit of the sunshine shows through clearly in these results, particularly in our retail estate. England's progress in the Rugby World Cup has continued this positive trading environment.

"It is also pleasing to note some signs of improving economic conditions in our London heartland, although these are tempered by the possibility of further interest rate rises, which could hinder any recovery, and the fact that our industry continues to bear the burden of many government imposed increases in operating costs.

"With all these mixed signals, it is difficult to predict the outcome for the year as a whole and much will depend on trade over Christmas. Nevertheless, we are continuing to improve the performance of the business and are confident that we can continue to deliver progress."

Young & Co's saw turnover increased by 4%, while operating profit increased by 4.2%, which would have been higher were it not for further increases in employee, tax and regulatory costs.

Exports enjoyed considerable increases in its main market, the US, said the company, and recent growth has continued in Italy, Finland and Sweden. Exports at the end of the period accounted for 7.3% of their own beer production.