November 29, 2018 / 7:48 AM / a year ago

Brexit fatigue is driving Britons to drink, says pub chain Greene King

(Reuters) - Britons are seeking a break from the endless Brexit debate by heading to their local for a pint, pub operator Greene King GNK.L said on Thursday as it reported an increase in profit over the last six months.

FILE PHOTO: A pint of beer is poured into a glass in a bar in London, Britain June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo

The pub operator, which brews beers such as Greene King IPA and Old Speckled Hen, said that it was making contingency plans to protect against disruption if Britain leaves the trading bloc next March without a deal.

“People are bored from Brexit and that’s actually translating to pubs benefiting, our like to like sales are up 2.9 percent, so not all consumer facing businesses are suffering in the run up to Brexit,” Chief Executive Officer Rooney Anand told reporters.

“Pubs are benefiting in some respects from every time we turn on the television, radio or read the newspaper, all you hear about is Brexit and it doesn’t really take you forward.”

Greene King pretax profit rose 3.2 percent to 127.7 million pounds for the 24 weeks to Oct 14 — the first half of its financial year.

The company also said comparable sales for Pub Company, through which it manages its chain of 2,900 pubs, restaurants and hotels, had risen 2.7 percent.

Comparable sales at Pub Company were up 2.9 percent in the six weeks since the half-year point and Christmas bookings are well ahead of last year.

The company has been battling rising costs from a minimum wage increase, higher property prices and a Brexit-driven slide in the pound.

Greene King shares rose 6.5 percent to 540.4 pence at 0945 GMT, pushing them to the top on London's midcap index .FTMC.

The company said it has identified key areas of risk to its business from a “no deal” outcome and is working closely with its supply chain partners to safeguard the supply of goods to its pubs and breweries, as well as the export of beers.

Greene King is the latest British company to announce preparations for the risk of interruptions to the flow of goods and parts across borders once Britain leaves the European Union next March.

Anand declined to give details about the company’s Brexit planning.

“I don’t want to go into that because that’s quite unique and specific to Greene King ... we are a large customer of many of those domestic suppliers and we’re making sure we’re ahead of the queue,” he said.

Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain and Adil Bhat; Editing by Bernard Orr/Keith Weir

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