Heineken has today (21 February) reported an 11% rise in underlying profits for 2006 as the Dutch brewing giant's namesake brand enjoyed its biggest growth since the 1980s.

The brewer saw operating profit rise 10.7% on an organic basis to EUR1.6bn (US$2.1bn). Revenues rose 7.1% to EUR11.8bn as sales of the Heineken brand grew by almost 12%

Heineken said the successful US launch of Heineken Premium Light had driven sales of the core Heineken brand and had added some 680,000 hl to the brand's volumes. The brewer believes US sales of Heineken Premium Light will reach 1m hl this year.

Heineken chairman and CEO Jean-François van Boxmeer called 2006 "a strong year" for Heineken. He said: "The Heineken brand's performance in 2006 again demonstrates the immense value of the asset that continues to differentiate us from all our competitors."

The group's cost cutting programme, labelled "Fit2Fight" delivered savings of EUR114m before tax last year, Heineken said.

In Russia, Heineken said it had completed the integration of its ten breweries ahead of schedule. The brewer saw volumes in Russia reach 13m hl, a jump of some 10%.

Heineken's net profit leapt 59.1% to EUR1.2bn, boosted by gains worth EUR291m for a series of one-off items. Stripping out those gains, net profit rose 12.6% on an organic basis to EUR930m.

Heineken said it expects net profit to rise by 10-13% on an organic basis in 2007.