Suntory becomes top-selling Japanese brewer in Jan.-June period

Kyodo

Suntory Holdings Ltd.’s sales overtook those of Kirin Holdings Co. in the January-June period for the first time since 2009, when it adopted a holding company system, according to earnings reports released by major Japanese brewers by Wednesday.

Suntory racked up record-high group sales of ¥1.109 trillion in the first half of 2014, an increase of 18 percent from a year earlier, as a result of its acquisition of U.S. distiller Beam Inc. in May as well as the popularity of its Kinmugi low-priced beer-like drink product.

For the whole of 2014, Suntory is forecasting sales will rise 19.6 percent to ¥2.44 trillion, surpassing those projected by rivals Kirin, Asahi Group Holdings Ltd. and Sapporo Holdings Ltd. for the first time.

But Suntory’s net profit tumbled 41.8 percent to ¥17.1 billion in the six-month period, largely due to costs associated with the acquisition.

Kirin, which was the top-selling Japanese brewer in 2013, saw its sales fall 3.6 percent to ¥1.056 trillion in the January-June period, due to sluggish beer sales to commercial customers such as restaurants.

“We failed to deal sufficiently with the consequences of the sales tax hike (in April),” Kirin President Senji Miyake said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Asahi reported that its sales in the January-June period rose 3.9 percent to ¥811.2 billion, while Sapporo saw its sales rise 3.7 percent to ¥239.8 billion.