Foster's Group, owners of the eponymous beer brand and the Beringer Blass wine operation, today exceeded market expectations by reporting an interim net profit of A$322.2m (US$164m). The results were driven by a strong performance by the company's wine business.

The profits for the half year ending 31 December were ahead of market forecasts, which had the company delivering between A$300 million to A$310 million range of forecasts set out by most analysts.

The results were 21% up on the same period last year, which saw a A$267m profit.
The Australian brewer also said it aimed to deliver double-digit earnings per share growth this year. And, chief executive Ted Kunkel took the opportunity to dismiss speculation that he was soon to retire.

Now into his 10th year at the top of Foster's he said: "There are absolutely no discussions and no talk of my retirement inside this company. This is too exciting."

He also dismissed talk of a major acquisition for the company saying that there were "no large acquisitions on the horizon."

He continued; "We don't feel the need to defend ourself in that manner - by going out and making a large acquisition.

"Our defence is to be as successful with the strategy as we can possibly be in terms of earnings per share growth."

Kunkel said that the results were a vindication of the wine strategy pursued by the company.
"The stamp of approval on the balanced business wine strategy is now clear for all to see," Kunkel said.

"It's a global beverage strategy with high return businesses supporting the high growth premium wine business," he said, before confirming that any economic uncertainty following 1th September had been successfully weathered.

By comparison the company said the beer division was solid. "We have not moved one bit off the 3-6% growth profile for the company. We see challenges, but we're still confident of delivering in that range," chief financial officer Trevor O'Hoy said, when referring to its Carlton and United Breweries unit.

The good results saw Foster's share price lift 3% to a two-month high of A$4.96 before it eased to close at A$4.95.

And, going forward Fosters said it remained confident.

"We believe that we'll deliver in excess of 10% bottom line EPS this year, unless there's some dramatic change in circumstances," O'Hoy said of earnings per share growth.

Foster's said that its primary growth areas were the US and that overseas markets now made up 40% of its profit.