The US brewer, Adolph Coors Co., posted second quarter earnings of US$76.3m, or US$2.09 per share, up 12.9% from US$67.6m, or US$1.84 per share, in the corresponding period a year earlier.

The company said that reduced costs per barrel had helped to offset increases in pension and fuel costs. Volume sales of beer and other beverages rose from 8.9m barrels to 9.1m. Analysts had been forecasting earnings per share between US$1.74 and US$2.11, with an average forecast of around US$1.90, according to a Reuters poll.

"Our operating income declined 4.1% as a result of challenges in both of our major business segments," said Coors Brewing Company president and CEO, Leo Kiely. "Lower Americas sales-to-retail reflected a very soft US beer industry, which was hindered by poor weather in many parts of the country and general economic weakness."

However, the company also stated that the US beer market was looking stronger as it moved into the second half of the year.

The quarterly result was boosted by an adjustment in the company's rate of tax. Coors' tax rate fell to 25.8% in the second quarter owing to the resolution of a number of tax audits and the structure of its Coors Brewers Ltd. acquisition. The tax rate for the full 2003 fiscal year is expected to be between 31% and 32%, with the longer term rate of around 36%.

For the first six months of the year, Coors' earnings reached US$77.2m, against US$94.8m in the corresponding period last year. Sales revenues for the first half rose from US$1.79 billion to US$1.93 billion.