The Chilean drinks group, Compania Cervecerias Unidas SA (CCU), has reported net profit for the first quarter of US$16.2m, a 62% decline from the first quarter last year.

The fall was attributed to a weak performance from the company's Argentine operations, where sales were negatively affected by the devaluation of the Argentine peso. In addition, the first quarter of 2001 had been boosted by an extraordinary gain from the sale of its stake in the Peruvian beer producer, Backs & Johnston.

Sales in the first quarter fell from last year's US$148.2m to US$140.7m, also attributed to the problems in Argentina. The drop in Argentina beer sales had been partially offset by gains in CCU's beer sales in Chile and overall wine sales, the company said.

Operating income fell by 7.9% in the first quarter to US$25.1m, once again mainly due to the operating loss recorded by CCU's Argentine subsidiary.