Kirin Brewery Co. has posted a healthy rise in fiscal Q1 group profits. The Japanese brewer credited the rise to the strength of its parent company's non-beer alcoholic beverage operations.

Net profit for the brewer increased fourfold for the quarter ending in March to Y3.56 billion (US$31.3m) from Y807m year-on-year.

Sales for the group also rose, by 3.6% to Y326.5 billion from Y315.24 billion, while operating profit climbed by 46.2% to Y14.58 billion.

Sales of the parent company's "chuhai," a low-priced, fruit-flavoured alcoholic beverage, and firm drug operations helped underpin Kirin's bottom line in the quarter. Kirin also cited strong performances at its subsidiaries, including Lion Nathan Ltd. Kirin Beverage Corp.

A spokesman for the brewer said that the company's beer sales volume in the first quarter was almost in line with the industry-wide average decline of 7%.

But brisk sales of Kirin's "Hyoketsu" canned chuhai brand and other non-beer liquor products caused a 2% on-year rise in its liquor business sales to Y207.2 billion. Operating profit in the company's mainline operations rose by 34% to Y7.9 billion.

For the current business year, which ends in December, Kirin left its earnings outlook unchanged. It continues to expect group operating profit of Y106 billion, up 4.4% from its 2003 result. It estimates group net profit will increase by 33% to Y43 billion.