Charles Wells, the privately-owned Bedfordshire brewer and pub owner, has this morning released figures revealing a 7.9% rise in operating profits to £11m, before exceptional costs. At a pre-tax level, profits were up significantly from £3m to £9.3m because of last year's writedown of a distribution centre in Bedford that the company no longer uses. The company's 251-strong leased and tenanted arm saw ebitda rise 15% after investment of £25m in 2009, including the purchase of 31 pubs. During the period to September 2010 the group sold 12 pubs. In Wells & Young's Brewing Company (WYBC), its joint venture with Young's, the London regional group, ebitda was maintained at £11m. The company said that in the face of a declining market, its total beer sales were up 0.8%. Exports were up 3.3%. Following the departure of Corona Extra and Red Stripe from the portfolio in 2010, the company said that steps had been taken to safeguard the business - with a review and cutting of the cost base. The business would soon be debt free, it added. Wells said that its fledgling seven-strong John Bull managed pubs in France continued to perform well and sales were up 19%, driven higher partly by the opening of the Robin Hood in Montpellier in May 2010. On the duty escalator and recent VAT rise, Paul Wells, CEO, said: "Last year I urged the Chancellor to realise the vital role played by pubs in their local economies - and I do the same this year. "Pubs can only take so much, and we are in danger of losing hundreds of great pubs because of the tax burden placed on them. Pubs are the absolute heart of their communities and part of the fabric of UK society." The company said its vacated distribution centre in Bedford has been let on a long-term commercial basis.