Eldridge Pope & Co., the UK pubs group, said yesterday that current trading is in line with its expectations. At its AGM, the company reiterated that conditions remain tough on the High Street.

Newly-appointed chairman Miles Templeman said in a statement: "Sales and profit levels remain in line with our outlook statement at the time of our prelim statement of 5 December 2003 with trading conditions on the High Street continuing to be difficult."

"As we stated in December, it is unlikely that the timing of the recovery will show in the first half results, but the board is confident that it has adopted the correct strategy and has taken the necessary steps to restore value to shareholders.

"I shall be working with the team with the particular objectives of increasing margins both in food and drink and in optimising the returns from the company's total property portfolio," Templeman said.

In October last year, the pub operator announced that it had sold a total of 23 pubs. The company sold 18 pubs to Inntown Pub and Property Company for £3.9m and disposed of a further five units in separate deals for a total of £1.5m.