BREWING and leisure group Scottish & Newcastle is set to continue its "significant progress" in transforming the business, after bucking the trend with an eight per cent jump in pre-tax profits.

The group, which employs around 600 directly in the North-East, showed no ill-effects of the unseasonal summer weather, as pre tax profits to October 29 were up to £241m.

The figures also showed American consumers were acquiring a taste for Newcastle Brown Ale with an eight per cent increase in sales reported.

Finance director Derek Wilkinson said the company had now made progress with sale of both Pontins and Center Parcs holiday businesses.

The cost of these disposals meant that overall, the group reported a pre-tax loss of £95.6m, against a profit of £205.8m last time.

S&N said it was including a £245m one-off cost in the results as part of the Center Parc disposals, while the Pontins sale had resulted in a loss of £72m.

Agreement on Center Parcs was reached last month, outside the reporting period.

The UK beer market had seen a particularly difficult summer, with volumes declining by 3.6 per cent, but despite this, Scottish Courage had grown profit by four per cent and only seen a 1.1 per cent decline in volumes.

The brewer's other brands saw a four per cent increase in sales, with its newly acquired Kronenbourg 1664 brand seeing a 23 per cent rise.

Mr Wilkinson blamed the decline in UK volumes on the unseasonal summer weather, meaning people did not sit outside in pub gardens eating and drinking so much.

''When the pub gardens do not trade well, the industry suffers,'' he said.

Turnover in the beer business as a whole was £1.33bn, compared with £1.03bn, a 29.4 per cent increase.

In the group's managed pubs division S&N saw its Chef & Brewer brand grow like-for-like sales by seven per cent.

But a substantial proportion of the estate was still experiencing a ''significant'' like-for-like sales decline, said the brewer.

As a result, S&N said it was now carrying out a pub-by-pub review, the outcome of which will be announced next month, and would see the sale of under performing pubs, it said.