Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries (W&DB), the brewer and pub group, has announced that trading for the 51 weeks to 23 September was in line with expectations, with good summer trading overall. Total like-for-like sales in the company's 457-strong managed pub arm, Pathfinder Pubs, increased 2.4% during the period. Like-for-like sales during July and June rose 6.7% at Pathfinder, on the back of good weather and the world cup. Since the end of July trading through its Pathfinder Pubs has continued ahead last year, with total like-for-like sales in the second half of its financial year up 3.7%. W&DB said it had made excellent progress with its new build pubs in its managed division, with a good pipeline of sites in place for development in 2007. Union Pub Company, the company's tenanted division, now comprises of 1,898 pubs, after the £43.6m acquisition of Celtic Inns in March and the completion of the transfer of 93 sites from Pathfinder Pubs during the second half. Average profit per pub in the company's tenanted division is estimated to have increased by approximately 5% during the 51-week period. WDB Brands, the group's brewing and brands division, increased its share of the premium ale market, and had performed in line with the standard ale market. It said that its recent sponsorship of the English Cricket Board reflected WDB Brands' increasing focus on premium ale through Marston's Pedigree, Old Empire and Jennings Cumberland Ale. The company said that detailed plans were in place in preparation for the proposed smoking ban in England and Wales, with its investment plans for both its managed and tenanted pubs well advanced. Over 85% of its pubs have gardens, patios or some form of outside trading area, allowing it “to target opportunities and reduce risk”. W&DB also announced it was in the process of a carrying out a triennial valuation of its final salary pension scheme, and it estimates that pension costs charged to its profit and loss account will increase by around £2m from next year. The group said it expects higher energy prices and a 6% increase in the minimum wage level to impact its overall cost base by around £5m next year. The company added that it remained confident that its strong balance sheet, conservative financing and strong cash flow would allow it to continue to target further investments, which meet its return on capital criteria. During August the company purchased around 904,000 shares at a total cost of £11.8m.