Japan's third largest beer maker, Sapporo Breweries Ltd, has tripled its profits in 2001, it reported today. The increase was helped by improving profit margins and strong sales of low-malt brands.

Net profits were Y4.39 billion (US$32.71m) for 2001, a rise of 237% from a year earlier.
However, consolidated sales fell 1.2% Y567 billion, due mainly to a 14% year-on-year decline in traditional beer sales. But, sales of low-malt happoshu, a less-expensive beer alternative, leapt 45% in 2001.

Despite the continuing difficult economic conditions in Japan, the company is also predicting a good year in 2002 with group net profits estimated to grow to Y8.2 billion, a rise of 86% percent. Again this expected to be driven by sales of its low-malt products.