Asia Pacific Breweries Ltd (APB) has closed its first half of the financial year strongly, despite what its CEO described as "severe competition" and "significant increase in raw material prices".

The Asian-based brewer said that group profit before interest and taxation (PBIT) grew 14% to S$169.0m (US$123m). Excluding translation difference and gestation losses, PBIT rose organically by 19% to S$179.5m.

Attributable net profit before exceptional items stood at S$90.4m, 14% up on the same corresponding period last year.

Group revenue for the same period increased by 14% to S$1.06bn.

Koh Poh Tiong, chief executive officer, APB said: "Our results were very satisfactory and demonstrated the resilience of our core business in the face of pressures from severe competition and significant increases in raw material prices. As a cluster, IndoChina (Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos) continued to be the star performer, accounting for some 52% or more than half of the group's PBIT, followed by Oceania (New Zealand and Papua New Guinea), contributing some 39%.

"I am particularly pleased that Singapore achieved a 4% increase in domestic sales in a largely mature market. This showed that, with the right strategies, our wide portfolio of complementary brands are winning over consumers in Singapore despite the plethora of competitive brands jostling for a share of throat. Overall as a group, positive momentum has been created and we will continue building on it. "

The company said that Indochina would have achieved a PBIT growth of 31% (instead of 21%) if not for the gestation loss from Laos as well as translation difference arising from the weaker US dollar and Vietnamese Dong. Compared to the same period last year, volume for the region grew 16%.

New Zealand recorded a credible PBIT increase of 9% on the back of a 3% rise in volume, favourable sales mix and the appreciation of the New Zealand dollar.

PBIT for Malaysia and Papua New Guinea grew by 7%. The former registered an 11% volume growth while the latter generated 8%.

Volume in Mongolia rose significantly while South Asia (India and Sri Lanka) reported a 28% gain over the same period last year. In Thailand, volume rose 2%, despite intense competition and increasing regulatory restrictions on the consumption and advertising of alcoholic products.

However, China reported a loss of S$7.3m during the period under review caused by intense competition, increases in raw material prices and losses at Kingway Brewery Holdings Ltd (Kingway) in which APB's associated company, Heineken-APB (China) Pte Ltd holds a 21% stake. For the financial year ending December 2007, Kingway reported a HK$23.57 million (about S$4.1 million) loss.

Looking forward, the company said in a statement: "APB will continue to invest in existing and new markets to secure long term and sustainable profitability. Barring unforeseen developments, APBE for the full year is expected to be higher than last year."