Scottish & Newcastle has today (8 August) posted rising first-half sales and earnings as the UK's largest brewer again outperformed its domestic beer market.

S&N, the maker of brands including Kronenbourg and Strongbow cider, posted a 7.6% jump in operating profit to GBP227m (US$432.5m) for the six months to the end of June. Sales rose 6% to just under GBP2bn.

The brewer said it has invested heavily in marketing its four core brands in the UK, which also include Foster's and John Smith's, while launching a series of new products to drive sales in a stagnant market.

S&N said UK volumes were up almost 5%, while the market as a whole grew by 2.8%. The brewer said it had gained from this summer's football World Cup, which boosted beer and cider sales across the market by 2%.

Chief executive Tony Froggatt said: "Our brand strength is the key to both growing value in mature markets and rapidly expanding positions in developing markets."

Russia proved a vital developing market during the first half of the year for S&N, which owns a 50% stake in Eastern European brewer Baltic Beverages Holding. Profits from the business soared almost 30% despite BBH being in the process of restructuring its Russian operations.

However, S&N again saw volumes fall in France, where it is the market leader. A weak French beer market contributed to a 2.5% dip in volumes at S&N's local arm, Brasseries Kronenbourg.

Nevertheless, S&N has revamped its on-trade sales force in France and invested more in marketing in an attempt to drive sales. The brewer said its three core brands there - Kronenbourg Red&White, Kronenbourg 1664 and Grimbergen - have shown signs of improvement thanks to brand innovation, including the launch of its Super Chilled fonts.

In Finland, where S&N owns local market leader Hartwall, branded beer volumes dipped 1.8%. S&N, however, said pricing was up as it looks to establish a premium segment in the Finnish beer market.

S&N's brewing venture in India, United Breweries (UBL), enjoyed rising sales on the back of the Kingfisher brand. Meanwhile, S&N pointed to a "very encouraging" first-half performance in China where sales rose 27%.