San Miguel Corporation has posted a lift in group sales and operating profits for the first half of this year, driven by a healthy performance from its spirits division.

The Philippines-based food and drink giant said yesterday (1 September) that operating profit for the six months to the end of June came in 6% up on the corresponding period a year earlier, totally PHP8.7bn (US$177.6m).

Net sales for the group came in 7% up year-on-year at PHP84.9bn, as the majority of San Miguel's businesses "showed sustained revenue growth despite a general slowdown in the economy", the company said.

San Miguel's spirits arm, Ginebra San Miguel , posted volume growth of 15%, while operating profits leapt to PHP617m from PHP426m last year.

Domestic beer sales at San Miguel Brewery inched up by 4% in the half-year, while operating profits increased by 6% as a result of "focused efforts to contain costs", the company said.

While consolidated net profits soared to PHP55.6bn for the half-year, compared to PHP19.7bn a year ago, the group noted that, excluding one-off items, recurring net profits came in 3% down at PHP5.3bn. In February, San Miguel sold a 43% stake in San Miguel Brewery to Kirin Holdings for around PHP59bn.

Also, early last year, the group sold Australian brewer J Boag & Son to Lion Nathan for A$325m (US$302.8m).

The group credited both these events with contributing to one-off gains in the half-year.