Marston's, the brewer and pub operator, said trading for the first months of the year had been satisfactory but warned that the impact of the smoking ban in England and Wales remained uncertain.
Chief executive Ralph Findlay told City newswire service AFX News that they were likely to sell a number of pubs but had no firm number in mind despite reports suggesting 280 pubs were for sale.
Managed pub division Marston's Inns & Taverns saw their sales increase by 7 % during the 24 weeks ending 17 March, with food sales increasing by 13.9%, while tenanted and leased business Marston's Pub Company showed "continued growth in average profit per pub compared to last year".
After acquiring Eldridge Pope on 25 January for £155.1m Marston's is yet to fully integrate its 95 managed pubs into their wider estate and would only say that trading was similar to their Inns & Taverns business.
Looking at trading for the rest of the year Marston's said: "The impact of the smoking ban in Wales from April 2007 and in England from July 2007 is uncertain, but our investment plans are very well advanced.
"Over 90% of our pubs have gardens, patios or some form of outside trading area, and we have made excellent progress in developing our food offers in Marston's Inns & Taverns. Food sales now make up 33% of total retail sales within our managed pubs."
Meanwhile Marston's Beer Company said its total beer volumes remained below last years levels but premium ale (including Marston's Pedigree) volumes and market share was increasing. The company is currently the principal advertiser for Sky Sports Cricket World Cup coverage.
Marston's was formerly Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries until they changed their name on 9 January.
by Christopher Walton