Brazilian brewer AmBev has seen a 40% fall in first quarter net profit, it said today, as it was hit by a decline in domestic beer sales.

Net profit reached 305 million reais (US$99m) in the first quarter, down from 509m reais in the sale period a year ago.

However, AmBev's consolidated EBITDA reached R$893.6m, a 32% increase compared to the year-ago quarter.

In a statement the company said: "After the challenges we experienced in the fourth quarter 2003, with market share losses in our Brazilian beer core business and consequently poor bottom line results, we are pleased to announce the first quarter 2004 results. Our EBITDA reached R$893.6 million, representing a 32% growth year on year and our market share increased from 63.2% in December to 65.0% in March, an increase of 180 basis points. We feel confident we are on track to a sustainable and profitable market share recovery that will lead us back to our 67 to 70% market share range.

"Our people are very energized with the challenges we have for this year and are very committed to deliver them. The drive and morale of our team are both very high, despite the absence of bonuses in 2003. Going forward, we recognize we still have some great challenges ahead of us for 2004, but we are sure that our team has got what it takes to get there."