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RECORD MONEY; Drooping profits for beer giant.

SCOTTISH & NEWCASTLE had a pounds 10million profit hangover yesterday after being hit by brewer's droop.

Profits at Scotland's biggest employer fell by 4.5 per cent to pounds 214.5million during the summer months.

The Edinburgh-based company - whose brands include McEwan's Lager, Foster's and Miller - blamed the dismal wet weather for a 10 per cent drop in beer profits.

The poor summer and troubled economic outlook meant the thirst for a pint dwindled during July and August and beer sales dropped by nearly five per cent.

As the rain continued to fall, and consumers tightened their belts, S&N's Pontins holiday parks division was also badly hit.

A rare bright spot came when the company - who employ 45,000 - said trading had improved during September and October.

But chairman Sir Alistair Grant warned: "As we approach the key Christmas

period, there is still some concern about consumer confidence."

Despite the downturn, S&N reported sales of Foster's up 10 per cent and Miller up a staggering 22 per cent.

The rebranded and refurbished Pontins Family Favourites parks proved to be exactly the opposite of their name.

Families stayed away from the 19 sites throughout the UK. Profits at Pontins slumped by more than half to just pounds 1.3million - prompting analysts to suggest a sell-off could be on the cards.

One stockbroker said: "The basic problem is Pontins no longer has the same appeal it once had.

"They are seen as old hat compared to new competition like EuroDisney and even S&N's own Center Parcs."

Mr Grant said consumers were choosing to save, but when they spent they were going for quality products.

As a result Center Parcs cashed in, boosting their turnover by four per cent and making profits of pounds 31million.

S&N were keeping tight-lipped about rumours that they were set to buy Kronenbourg - the third best selling beer in France.

The asking price of around pounds 2billion would make it the world's most expensive carry out.

Scots firms plead for new rate cuts

SCOTTISH business is praying for another cut in interest rates from the Bank of England this week.

The Bank's monetary policy committee begins its two-day meeting to discuss rates today.

Businesses say another major cut - on top of last month's 0.5 per cent reduction - is urgently needed.

They claim slashing rates is the only way to stop the Scottish economy slumping into full-blown recession by the middle of next year.

The Bank of Scotland confirmed last week that manufacturing output fell for the fifth month in a row, and retailers say sales are still plunging.

Leading accountants BDO Stoy Hayward added to the gloom with their latest "poll of polls" - a study of the results of all major business surveys in the last three months.

It revealed that Scots firms expect the economy to be in recession by mid-1999, causing "real pain".

CBI Scotland director Iain McMillan said: "Confidence is still declining and we need another rate cut to rev-erse the downward trend.

"There is still scope for further cuts as inflationary pressures are now reducing."

Scotland is one of the UK's worst areas for skill shortages and the problem is getting worse. A survey by Reed Personnel Services says two in three firms have problems hiring the right staff.

Stagecoach want new place to stop

STAGECOACH are on the hunt for a new headquarters building in Perth.

The transport firm's rapid expansion means they have outgrown their base in the town's Charlotte Street.

Stagecoach are ranked as one of the UK's top 100 companies.

Hydro waiting on merger go-ahead

SCOTTISH Hydro-Electric have postponed an interim results announcement due today.

The firm have delayed because they hope to confirm details of a pounds 4.7billion merger with Southern Electric. They are confident the deal will be approved by the Government within days.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Calder, Colin
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Dec 9, 1998

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