Pubs and brewing group Greene King yesterday toasted buoyant beer sales as the firm said it was on track to meet full-year profits targets.

The company said own-brewed beers Old Speckled Hen and Abbot Ale enjoyed double-digit growth in the 17 weeks to August 26, with a ten per cent rise for Hardys & Hansons.

Despite the wet summer and the introduction of England's smoking ban in July, like-for-like sales across Greene King's managed pubs estate - which includes the Hungry Horse chain - were up two per cent after discounting the impact of last year's World Cup.

The group's tenanted pubs also increased like-for-like sales by one per cent, despite the difficult trading conditions.

The company said: "Profit expectations for the full year remain unchanged, despite recent unseasonal weather."

Analysts said the Suffolk firm's brewing business, which accounts for 11 per cent of group profits, had been helped by the wet weather.

Douglas Jack of Panmure Gordon said: "Demand tends to switch back from lager to ale during colder climes."

Greene King said it remained "very well-placed" to cope with the smoking ban's challenges and capitalise on further opportunities.

The Bury St Edmunds-based company added that its Belhaven business in Scotland, which has been coping with the smoking ban since March 2006, was also on track to meet expectations, with Bel-haven Best volumes up nine per cent in the period.

Mr Jack added: "Overall, we view this as a credible result in difficult conditions, reflecting management initiatives to drive food, coffee, wine and ale sales in particular."

BlueOar analyst Mark Brumby also said: "This represents a reassuring statement.

"There will be no - or few - upgrades, as there had been no downgrades, but shareholders should be comforted. GNK is performing well, has hopefully put the weather behind it and remains an innovative operator."

Greene King added that it had already opened a new Loch Fyne restaurant in Edinburgh since it bought the seafood dining chain for £68.1 million in August, bringing the total number of restaurants to 37. The company has two outlets in the West Midlands.

However, Greene King, which has more than 1,400 tenanted pubs and nearly 800 managed pubs, gave no update on plans announced in July to unlock more cash from its property estate by spinning off around a third of its pubs into a property/operating company vehicle.

Appetite for the deal is likely to have waned in the recent market turmoil and tighter debt markets which forced fellow pubs chain Mitchells & Butlers to put a similar deal on hold.

Greene King posted pretax profits of £139.8 million for the 12 months to April 29.