The US-based wine operations of Australian brewer, Foster's Group, are expected to compensate for soft beer sales in Australia when the company announces its first half results next week.

Analysts' profit estimates range from A$300 million to A$320 million with most predicting around A$305 million to A$310 million. This would compare with net earnings excluding significant items of A$293.1 million in the first half of 2000-2001.

The inclusion of the first full six months' contribution from Beringer will boost the results as only three months of earnings were included in last year's figures. Foster's Carlton & United Breweries, which comprises the group's beer, spirits and hotel interests, is expected to increase profits by around 3% though international beer sales are thought to have performed well. Beringer is also thought to have fared relatively well in the face of a depressed premium wine market in the US.