Brewer and pub operator Adnams today warned that 2009 would be "as bad or worse" as last year for the pub industry as it reported a drop of more than 60% in annual profits.
While turnover for the year to 31 December only dropped 1% to £47.1m, rising costs meant profits fell to £1.5m (2007: £4.2m).
The company blamed falling consumer confidence for hitting demand, with pressure from supermarkets using alcohol as a loss leader, higher running costs and a heftier tax burden adding to the squeeze on margins.
Executive chairman Jonathan Adnams admitted there were no signs of recovery. "From today's perspective it is hard to see much light at the end of the global economic tunnel and we have to anticipate a tough 2009," he said.
Adnams, which sold six pubs in the autumn, said it was continuing with plans to dispose of poorly performing pubs and added that it recently completed the purchase of three "high quality" pubs from Punch Taverns.
"We will continue to keep a strong control over costs, but we will also keep our eyes on the longer-term future and position the company to take advantage of opportunities as they arise," Jonathan Adnams said.
By Daniel Thomas
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