Wolverhampton & Dudley has reported earnings at the upper end of market forecasts as sales grew healthily.

The UK regional brewer and landlord said it achieved record underlying earnings per share up 10.2% to 33.6p (2004: 30.5p). The company raised its interim dividend 10% to 13.2p. Underlying profit before taxation was up 13.6% to £36.0m.

Ralph Findlay, CEO said: "The group has performed strongly in the first-half year. Our ability to integrate acquisitions quickly and effectively has contributed to this good overall performance.

"Trading over the Easter bank holiday weekend and since 2 April has been good and in line with expectations."

Group turnover increased by 18.7% and the underlying operating margin was maintained, notwithstanding the significant cost increases being faced by the business, W&D said.

Looking forward, the company warned that the industry faces "significant regulatory challenges."

"Additionally, a slow-down in consumer expenditure has been widely reported. These factors suggest that pressure on industry margins will continue," a statement said.
 
"We believe that our strategy is well suited to these slower market conditions. We will continue to use our strong cash flow to invest in our pub estates through refurbishment, acquisition and site development, with a focus on high quality, value oriented offers in community pubs.

"Notwithstanding the more uncertain economic climate, our strong performance and market position give us confidence in a satisfactory out-turn for the year in line with our expectations."