Australian brewer Cooper's has reported annual profits of AUD20.3m (US$18.8m), up from last year's AUD20.2m, after higher malt costs offset  a 5% sales rise to AUD169m.

Managing director Tim Cooper said dearer malt cut AUD2.5m from the bottom line.

Total beer sales rose 1% by volume, with a 5.2% decline in the traditional stronghold states of South Australia and the Northern Territory but a 6.3% increase across all other territories.

"Overall, we're happy that our total volume keeps increasing as a result of growth outside of South Australia and the NT," Dr Cooper said.

Export sales rose by 2.9% and accounted for 2.2% of sales by volume. Cooper's hopes to lift this to 8% by 2014.

Cooper's 80%-owned subsidiary Premium Beverages is looking for an import brand to replace the distribution contract for Budweiser, set to be handed to Lion Nathan next month.