UK brewer and pub owner Greene King has reported sales and volumes ahead of a rapidly shrinking market over the last nine months.

Own-brewed beer volumes slipped by 1.5% in the 38 weeks to 25 January, as sales from supermarkets and off-licences helped to insulate against a heavier decline in the on-trade, Greene King said today (28 January).

The group's figures were relatively healthy against a market that saw beer sales tumble 8% in the final quarter of 2008 and is currently reporting 39 pub closures per week, according to statistics released by the British Beer and Pub Association yesterday.

Greene King may have outperformed several of its rivals, but that could not save the brewer's profit. Underlying like-for-like profit for the firm's tenanted pub business, Pub Partners, was down 5.3% in the year-to-date, largely due to falling beer sales and "increased licensee support".

Belhaven, the group's Scottish beer and pub business, reported like-for-like sales up 2.4%.

On debt payments, Greene King said: "We continue to reduce our net debt position and invest in our businesses whilst ensuring we generate net cash, with no refinancing required before April 2012 on either securitisation or bank debt."

The brewer of Old Speckled Hen and Abbot Ale remained cautious on 2009, considering the recession now enveloping the UK. "The anticipated post-New Year slowdown has not, as yet, taken place, but we remain very cautious as to trading prospects for 2009, and we anticipate that the outlook for the rest of the year will remain very challenging."