Lion Nathan, the Australasian-based brewer, said today that its earnings so far this year were broadly in line with expectations and ahead of last year. However, chief executive Gordon Cairns also said that the company was in talks with six companies in an effort to drag its operations in China into profit. "Earnings are broadly in line with plan and up on a year ago," Cairns said at the annual general meeting today. He said that although the beer market had declined 1.3% in New Zealand this was an improvement on the decline in previous years, while the company's share of the New Zealand and Australian markets was "in good shape".