The Dutch brewer Heineken has met market expectations by reporting a 15% rise in underlying profits for 2001. The company said it expected further net profit growth in the current year.

"Our results are affected from year to year by factors that are difficult to predict such as exchange rates, government policy, economic developments and the weather. Despite these uncertainties, Heineken once again expects further growth in net profit in 2002. Heineken also remains positive regarding the longer term profit outlook, given the success of our corporate strategy, the strength of the Heineken and Amstel brands and our local brands, our international spread, the existing financial resources at our disposal and our extensive international experience," the beermaker said in a statement.

Despite the positive outlook for growth, the company was not forthcoming on any further acquisition strategies.

Net turnover in 2001 rose by 13% to €9.163m, with 6% of the growth being accounted for by first time consolidations - mainly the consolidation of Nigerian Breweries with effect from 1 January 2001 as well as the first time consolidation of a number of beverage wholesalers.

The higher exchange rate of the US dollar against the euro accounted for an increase of almost 2%, the company said. Organic growth in net turnover was 5%, of which higher selling prices and improvements in the sales mix accounted for 4% and growth in sales volume contributed 1%.

Heineken's operating profits rose by 22% €1.125 billion in 2001.

The global sales volume of Heineken beer in 2001 increased by 4% to 22.4m hectolitres, the US, Spain, France, Italy, Thailand and Canada accounting for most of the growth. Sales volume of Amstel beer held steady at 10.8m hectolitres, with lower volumes in the Netherlands and Greece in particular being compensated by higher volumes in Spain and the US.

In 2001 the total sales volume of the Heineken Group in Europe increased by 4.7m hectolitres to 55.4m hectolitres, despite what Heineken called "the moderate year for the beer market in Western Europe as a result of the terrorist attacks in the United States and the relatively poor summer weather."

It went on: "At the same time, the process of consolidation within the European brewing industry accelerated and brought about intensified competition."