Kirin Brewery Co. said Friday its net profit for 2004 jumped 52 percent to 49.1 billion yen, thanks to the strong performance of its nonalcohol and overseas beer subsidiaries.

The maker of Kirin Lager and Tanrei “happoshu,” a low-malt beerlike beverage, said its revenue rose by 4 percent to 1.65 trillion yen.

The company’s main domestic alcohol business fell short of its target, with happoshu hit hard by the entry of smaller rivals’ new beerlike drinks, which boast cheaper prices due to a lower liquor tax.

Yet Kirin Beverage Corp., a nonalcohol subsidiary, and Lion Nathan Ltd., a brewery that operates in Australia and New Zealand, lifted the company’s profits, it said.

Meanwhile, Sapporo Holdings Ltd. reported a record pretax profit of 18 billion yen for 2004, thanks to the strong performance of Draft One, a malt-free beerlike beverage.

Company sales rose 3 percent to 494.93 billion yen.

Sapporo, the smallest of the four major breweries, had been struggling amid a lack of hit products. But Draft One, introduced nationwide last February, boosted the company’s profits.

For this year, the company expects sales of Draft One to grow by some 20 percent, though it expects revenue to decline in its alcohol business, with beer and happoshu sales likely to drop faster.

Asahi Breweries Ltd., the country’s largest beer maker, on Tuesday reported record earnings for 2004, driven by strong sales of its Super Dry beer and nonalcoholic beverages.

The firm’s net profit rose 32 percent to 30.6 billion yen, on revenue of 1.44 trillion yen, up 3 percent. Amid a shrinking domestic market, Asahi’s beer and happoshu shipments edged up 0.1 percent.

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