Belgian beer giant Interbrew has confirmed the reports on Friday that it is expecting core profits for the year to come in below consensus forecasts, because of pension costs and foreign exchange discrepancies.

In a statement the company said: "Before entering into the radio silence period preceding the publication of the full year 2002 results, (starting January 11th, 2003), Interbrew confirms that, compared to what it understands to be the analysts market consensus, FOREX movements and the previously announced, weaker performance in Russia have a slight impact on the EBITDA forecast for 2002. This impact is offset by lower CAPEX and depreciation which are below what is Interbrew's understanding of analysts market consensus."

It continued: "As a consequence, the EPS 2002 target (before goodwill amortization and restructuring) is confirmed at €1.50."

The statement comes after a bizarre sequence of events which apparently saw the company making individual telephone calls to analysts on Friday to tell them of the profit forecasts.

The apparently cavalier fashion in which the company initially informed the market has sparked a fair deal of controversy and the Belgian stock market regulator is now to launch a two-week analysis of the episode and then decide whether or not to launch a formal investigation.

The analysis will centre on whether the way in which Interbrew told analysts meant the information was privileged. Belgian law prohibits anyone with privileged information to either buy or sell a company's stock, or even encourage others to do so.