Japanese brewer Suntory Ltd, the smallest of Japan's four major brewing groups, has forecast 2002 sales of beer and low-malt happoshu to rise by 7% to 58m cases.  If met, this will give Suntory an estimated 9.6% market share.

The fourth-largest brewer in Japan, Suntory also said it sold 54m cases of beer and happoshu last year, a fall of 6% year-on-year.

Asahi Breweries Ltd holds the top market share for beer and happoshi with a 38.9% share while Kirin, previously the markert leader, has dropped to second place with 35.9% share.

According to Reuters, Sapporo Breweries Ltd is expected to claim the number-three position when it announces its sales figures and estimates on Friday.

For sales of chuhai - a fruit-flavoured cocktail made from soda water and a traditional Japanese vodka-like spirit - Suntory said it intends to remain the market leader with shipments of 250,000 kl in 2002.

Kirin was reported on Wednesday  saying wants to become the top seller of chuhai by the end of the year. Kirin estimates it will ship 150,000 kl by the end of 2001.