The Japanese brewer and distiller, Suntory, has posted a net profit for the year to the end of December 2002 of Y20.28 billion, up 43% on 2001. Operating profit was up 19% at Y78.70 billion.

The company said that the increase in profitability stemmed from successful efforts to cut operating expenses. Turnover fell by 3.5% to Y1.384 trillion, due primarily to the exclusion of a contribution from its liquor wholesale subsidiary which reduced group sales by around Y85 billion.

Suntory said turnover from spirits and beer fell by 3.2% to Y555.02 billion. Strong sales of happoshu brands boosted total beer sales by 7% in volume terms to 57.58m cases, leaving Suntory with a record 10.5% market share, up from 9.7% last year.

For 2003, Suntory is forecasting operating profit of Y88 billion which would be a 12% increase on 2002. Suntory, which is not a publicly listed company, is expecting a 48% rise in net profit to Y30 billion for 2003 on sales 2.5% higher at Y1.419 trillion.