Greene King, the UK brewer and pub owner, has reported an increase in beer sales for the first 17 weeks of its fiscal year, despite a shrinking UK market.

Own-brewed beer sales by volume rose by 12% for the 17 weeks to 30 August, compared to the same period last year, Greene King said today (8 September). Volume sales of Scottish ale Belhaven Best were up by around 15%.

The rises come in a UK beer market down 6% in volume terms for the three months to July, the brewer said.

"The growth has been driven by strong performances across its core brands in both the on-trade and the off-trade, particularly the UK's leading premium ale brand, Old Speckled Hen," said Greene King.

Sales are also up across the Greene King pub portfolio, although operating margins have slipped in the face of cost pressures.

Greene King said that, despite having a stronger business now than before the recession, it remains cautious about the full-year.

"The consumer recovery is fragile and there are numerous risks to current levels of consumer spending, particularly for the second half of our financial year, including rising unemployment and taxes, slowing wage growth and increasing debt repayments."

Earlier this year, Greene King completed a GBP207m (US$341m) share rights issue to target pub acquisitions and pay down debt. It has used GBP45m so far, including GBP31m on pub acquisitions, it said today.

Greene King saw pre-tax profits for its most recent fiscal year fall 15%.