Stellenbosch-based wine and spirit giant, Distell has issued a trading statement informing shareholders that it's headline earnings for the year ended 30 July 2004 will be "materially" higher than last year and could be up by anything between 10% and 30%.

South African wineries such as Distell have been facing increasing pressure on export profits with the ever strengthening of the Rand, which swung from over R19.50 for £1 in early 2002, down to just over R11 to £1 late last month. Indications are that these ratios would remain like this for the short-term at least, thus maintaining pressure on exports.

Over the past 18 months, Distell has looked at operational efficiencies and started implementing cost saving strategies to ensure its competitiveness, especially on the domestic market where KWV, one of its major shareholders, has now also entered the fray for the first time.

Distell's trading figures on the JSE have remained constant over the past two weeks, operating in a band of between R14.95 and R15.50 and closing at R15.00 on Friday.

The company's final figures are due on 17 August.