The Japanese brewer, Asahi Breweries Ltd., has posted a net profit for the year to December 2002 of Y14.75 billion, up 8.4% from 2001.

However, group sales fell from from Y1,433 billion to Y1,375 billion, the company's first fall in consolidated sales since 1980. Asahi also reported that operating profit had fallen by 11%. The company attributed the decline in turnover to weak sales of its flagship brand, "Super Dry".

But Asahi was upbeat about the current year, forecasting that it will post a group net profit for 2003 of Y26 billion, representing a 76.2% improvement on 2002. Group sales are forecast to rise by 6.7% to Y1,468 billion.