Japan's largest beer maker Asahi Breweries has reported a dip in annual profits due to higher promotion costs from last year's battle for the industry's top spot with Kirin Brewery Co.

Asahi today (6 February) posted operating profit of JPY88.7bn (US$738.6m), down from JPY90.2bn a year earlier. Net sales inched up 1.1% to JPY1.4 trillion.

However, Asahi, which leads the Japanese beer market in terms of shipments, said net profit had risen 12% to JPY44.8bn due to a fall in losses from the sale of production equipment.

The company, which also has interests in the soft drinks sector, spent 2006 battling it out with Kirin for leadership of Japan's beer market. Asahi hung on to top spot, despite its beer sales falling 3.1% to around 188m cases.

Separately, Asahi also announced that it plans to adopt a so-called "poison pill" defence against any possible takeover.

The plan would allow Asahi to issue extra shares if a hostile bidder tried to buy more than 20% of the company.