Marston's Plc, the brewer and pubco, reported H1 sales up 7.6% on last year to £342 million, with LFL sales in its 550 managed pubs up 3.6%. Even brewing sales were up 6.6% as the overall market for ales improved 2%. All divisions contributed to the increased sales.

The volume increase has benefitted the bottom line as underlying pre-tax profits are up 14.7% to £33.5 million.

Marston's is focussed on the pub-restaurant as the centrepiece of its growth strategy and it will build and open 25 this year. It does pub food well and these results have much to do with that, especially when you compare them with this weeks results from Enterprise Inns whose growth was much weaker. Food sales keep growing, albeit at a slower pace now. Food accounts for 43% of these sales, up 2% on last year. The sales are won by a value for money offer with consistent high service standards.

Marston's has a tenanted commercial property estate of around 1,600 pubs, around 1,000 of which are on traditional tied leases, but the balance are on or moving to a franchise deal, which is driving growth, albeit at lower margins. It has continued to sell some pubs, and so far has sold 16 pubs for £21 million this year.

Shares in Marston's closed last night at 95.3p which values the firm at £539 million, against a net asset value of £806 million. The firm has increased the interim dividend by 5% to 2.2p.