Enterprise Inns has shrugged off the tough conditions suffered by many of its rivals to reveal betterthanexpected first half profits.
The Solihull- based firm said pretax profits lifted 53 per cent to £143.6 million in the six months to March 31 as it benefited from its acquisition of the Unique Pub Company.
A strong performance during the period and into the second half left it optimistic of reporting a year of "solid progress".
Enterprise said: "Against a background where some are talking of a downturn in consumer discretionary spending, our top quality pub estate continues to trade well in what is a challenging and competitive environment." The group's purchase of Unique's 4,000 pubs last year left it with 8,644 outlets by the end of the first half, and is expected to bring cost savings of £27 million in this financial year.
On a like-for-like basis, the average operating profit per pub was nine per cent higher at £29,200 during the period.
Enterprise said it was continuing to review acquisition opportunities in the market.
Chief executive Ted Tuppen said the fact that the company's pubs were unbranded and different from the competitive high street sector protected them from the impact of any downturn.
He said: "I read that there's a consumer downturn, but our estate continues to trade well.
"History shows that pubs in general, and good pubs in particular, are robust in any sort of downturn.
"For a good quality pub, 95 percent of its performance is down to the pub itself, and more particularly the people running it, and just five per cent is the economy.
"Our sort of pubs are less cyclical than the more fashionable, higher- scale, highernoise end of the business," he added.
Shares in pub groups have dived in the last three weeks since leisure group Whitbread said consumers were spending less at its health clubs and pub-restaurants.
Enterprise said it was working with auditors to work out how new accounting rules would affect its results, but at the moment expected only " minor adjustments" to earnings.
The Unique acquisition helped sales rise to £ 453.9 million from £240.3 million, while the interim dividend rose to 5.6p from 3.6p.
The group is at a turning point in its history after listing ten years ago with 500 pubs and going on to make several major acquisitions.
Potential targets in the UK pubs sector are now becoming rarer, but Mr Tuppen did not rule any out.
He said: "Theoretical competition concerns would suggest that we still have scope for a few thousand more pubs, but the future is about quality not quantity.
"We will only make acquisitions that are more earnings enhancing than giving cash back."