Compañía Cervecerías Unidas has posted a healthy set of results for the first three months of 2008.

The Chilean drinks company, which also operates in neighbouring Argentina, said today (29 April) that net profit for the first quarter leapt by 18.8% on the corresponding period a year earlier, coming in at CLP32.69bn (US$74.7m). Sales also headed north, rising by 6.2% to CLP183.48bn.

Operating profit performed similarly to sales, increasing by 8.6% to CLP40.92bn.

While the appreciation of the Chilean peso hampered results from CCU's operations in neighbouring Argentina, the company still saw stronger volumes across the board - up 10.7% - help drive results in the quarter.

"We are very pleased with the results obtained during the first quarter of 2008," the company said. "A particularly difficult challenge we faced during this quarter was the unusually high inflation rate accumulated during the last twelve months in Chile, which reached 8.1%. Nonetheless, we were able to grow our operating income, EBITDA and net income in real terms.

The strong showing by almost all business segments was credited to a focus on brand equity creation, "which translated into volume increases, and a controlled cost structure".

The company noted, however, that it has been hit by "considerable cost pressure during the quarter, especially in raw materials in the beer businesses, mainly malt and rice, as well as higher energy costs".

CCU is the largest brewer in Chile, the second-largest Argentine brewer, the third-largest Chilean soft drink producer and the second-largest Chilean wine producer, as well as the largest Chilean mineral water producer. The company also has licensing and/or joint venture arrangements with Paulaner Brauerei, Anheuser-Busch, Heineken and PepsiCo.