Hook Norton, the Oxfordshire-based brewer and pub operator, has reported a sharp rise in profits in a “challenging” year. Pre-tax profits increase by 30.3% to £0.52m in the year to 30 September 2011. This is against comparatives with the previous year when the company incurred a £148k depreciation charge on its freehold properties (2011: zero). Turnover increased £3,724 to £7.45m. Operating profit was up 81.6% to £366k. Hook Norton said 2011 was “another challenging year for the company”, with market conditions “remaining difficult in a weakening economic environment”. However, “progress has been made” in its business, with new appointments such as recruitment of a joint managing director Adrian Staley to work with James Clarke. Hook Norton’s c.45-strong tenanted business “has continued to demand much work”, although the “debtor situation on the tied estate has been stabalised and is much improved”. “A number of potential acquisitions have been looked at during the year, but no additions were made to the estate,” the company said. The programme of pub repairs continued in the year, and one site, the Wellington in Moreton-in-Marsh, was sold because it was “no longer considered viable” as a pub. Capital investment to modernise the cask racking line is promised in early 2012, alongside other work on the brewery this year. Hook Norton plans more events at the site this year. The company has moved to contract hire for its distribution fleet, which has “much lower operating costs”. The firm had net funds of £1.28m at 30 September 2011, against net debt of £9,772 one year earlier. Hook Norton said: “The company is securely capitalised, has falling bank debt, has increased its investment to overcome the historic under-investment in its assets and operations, and is becoming more efficient and entrepreneurial.”