There was, of course, an early VAT disappointment for Hetherington, only in the job since August. After legal action by Allied Domecq and four other British companies the European Court ruled that VAT paid on leased vehicles could not be reclaimed. A favourable decision would have put a few more millions in a heavy cash bag. The trading profit for the half-year to February was £244m on a turnover of £1.83bn. A statement in August covering 11 months of the year reported that performance was in line with market expectations, and independent estimates say the full-year results due on Tuesday should show pre-tax profits of £579m. The duel to buy the group's pubs is now over and Punch Taverns has won with its £2.75bn bid, though, of course, this transaction will show up in next year's results. In its August statement the dramatically changed company predicts 'further progress' in 1999/2000. That progress could appear, in Hetherington's calculations, as a product of two joint ventures newly entered into by Allied Domecq. The group has paid £75m for a 70% share of each venture with Jinro of South Korea to sell spirits in a global expansion drive.
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