Japan's second largest brewer, Kirin Brewery Co, has reported a net loss of ¥238m for the first quarter of 2002. Both sales and operating profit for the quarter to the end of March were down, with Kirin attributing the decline to soft sales of core beer brands and higher promotional costs.

Group operating profit fell by 38% to ¥3.57 billion while sales were 1.8% down at ¥303.7 billion as a result of the continued decline in regular beer sales in favour of the cheaper low-malt brands.

However, Kirin's first quarter net loss was substantially reduced from last year's figure of ¥1.16 billion. The company said this was due to reduced special losses from the write-off of pension related liabilities.

The first quarter tends to be tough for Japanese brewers, which have to invest in promotion for the summer while the beer market itself is at the weakest point in its cycle. Last week, Kirin's rival and the market leader, Asahi, also recorded a first quarter net loss. This year, however, the summer period offers the brewers something of a bonanza with the World Cup Finals beginning in June.