Having posted a 64% rise in its first half earnings, China's leading brewer, Tsingtao Brewery, said it is anticipating net profits to rise by in excess of 50% for the first nine months of the current fiscal year, compared with the comparable period in 2001.

Meanwhile, Tsingtao has also made bold forecasts for its burgeoning business in Taiwan. The company said it expects to sell 20,000 kilolitres of beer in Taiwan this year, having begun nationwide sales in mid-April. The company said it would consider setting up production facilities in Taiwan once annual demand has reached 30,000 to 40,000 kilolitres.

"We intend to set up plants in Taiwan ... and we will consider doing so when annual sales reach 30,000-40,000 kilolitres," Tsingtao chairman, Li Guirong, said, adding that such a move would be a more efficient way to approach the Taiwanese market. Local brands account for between 70% and 80% of the Taiwanese beer market which is believed to total 550,000 kls to 600,000 kls.

Li Guirong also said that an announcement regarding Tsingtao's tie-up with US brewer, Anheuser-Busch, would be made as soon as possible. "We are still in talks and hope to finalize it as soon as possible," he said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Li was reported as saying that the two companies had decided to develop the Tsingtao brand rather than Budweiser in China because advertising costs are lower and there is a shorter lead time on return on investment. But Li would not comment on speculation that A-B plans to pay HK$1.2 billion to raise its stake in Tsingtao from 4.5% to 27%.