Interbrew today reported net after-tax profits before extraordinary items of €537m, up 98% on 200 results.

But questions still remain over Interbrew's future. In a research note today, Stuart Price, beverage analyst with investment bank West LB Panmure said: "We believe that the key issue for Interbrew revolves around its future growth strategy, in particular how the management plans to reinvest the £1.2bn received from the forced sale of the UK Carling business to Coors, management's plans to improve weakening EBITDA margins in Western Europe (from 17.9% to 16.5%); investment plans in Southern Europe after the acquisition of a 12.6% stake in Damm (a Spanish brewer), and the speculation regarding a merger with South African Breweries."

There is also continued concern over what the market sees as Interbrew's habit of over-paying for assets, in particular hte recent purchaes of Bass and Becks.

At present these issues have not been addressed, however, there is a web-cast presentation on Interbrew's website www.interbrew.com at 15.00hrs CET.

The research note continued: "The Western European performance has dragged down EBITDA margins, which suggests that either consumers have been trading down and/or that the competition has stemmed price increases to being below cost increases, or is attributable to the integration of Becks and Diebels.

"At an 2003E EV/EBITDA of 9.5x, we believe that Interbrew is fully valued and while it has shown more momentum than Heineken (10.5x EV/EBITDA), these results in themselves do not provide a compelling case for Interbrew being rated at a par to Heineken."