Greene King is the brewer CAMRA loves to hate. It's been an acquisitive company, buying Ridley's, Hardy's and Hansons, and Morlands, as well as Belhaven Brewery, and closing down many of the breweries to concentrate brewing at its Bury St Edmunds site. It's not by any means the only brewer to play this game - but it's the largest.

It has also acquired hotel and restaurant businesses, including Old English Inns - which is where my involvement with Greene King began, since I was an OEI shareholder at the time.

Greene King now has four separate businesses. First, there's the retail division, including managed pubs, restuarants, and hotels. Then there's Pub Partners which runs the tenanted pubs. There's the brewing company, which does what it says on the tin (sorry, cask). And then there's Belhaven, the Scottish brewing and pub company, which is managed as a separate entity. GNK is a reasonable sized business, with 2,500 pubs in the UK - Enterprise and Punch each have about 7,000, Marstons about 2,000 - and two breweries (Bury St Edmunds and Dunbar). Though that brief description doesn't show you just how dominant GNK is becoming in the cask ale business in the UK - more about that later.

Full year results to May 2009 were reasonably robust, in a tough economic environment. Revenues rose 1.3% to £955m, and operating profit fell 6.7%, with the operating margin falling from 24.6% to  22.6% - still above the competition; Marston's Plc and Mitchells & Butlers came in around 15%, and managed pubs operation Wetherspoon(j.d.) around 10% [1] . (It's worth noting that Marston's Plc saw a worse decline in business at its interims, with a 9% fall in operating profit, though the two sets of results are not strictly comparable.)

Perhaps more to the point in an environment dominated by the rescue of heavily indebted Punch and Enterprise Inns, GNK was the only major player in the sector to pay down debt in the period. That didn't stop it holding a rights issue - but with the focus on getting a war chest together for opportunistic purchases, rather than being driven by refinancing needs.

And in a most unusual move for the sector, indeed for the market as a whole, GNK increased its dividend - albeit by the puny amount of a tenth of a penny, from…

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