UK soft drinks producer AG Barr has reported a rise in both pre-tax profits and sales for the first half, and said it is optimistic about meeting its forecasts for the full year.

The Scottish-based company posted pre-tax profits before exceptional items of GBP9.4m (US$17.8m), up from GBP8.7m in the corresponding period last year, on sales up 8.9% from GBP66.3m to GBP72.2m.

The rise in turnover included a GBP3.2m contribution from the Strathmore water business which AG Barr acquired on 1 June, 2006. The company said underlying sales, excluding Strathmore, increased by 4.1% in the period. AG Barr raised its interim dividend from 9.75 pence to 10.25 pence.

AG Barr said that the overall soft drinks market in the period grew in value terms by 9% assisted by better than average weather, especially in July. Total carbonates performance continued to be sluggish with value growth of 1% and a volume decline of 3%, the company added. "This total carbonates position masked some significant competitor carbonate brand declines which has led to a further increase in competition in the market place," the company said. "We have continued to successfully follow our value-based strategy albeit in the face of increased promotional activity and cost particularly in the multiple retailer channel."

AG Barr said that turnover so far in the second half of the year was in line with its business plan but added that market conditions remained very competitive in the soft drinks sector.