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Tuesday, 12 February, 2002, 10:54 GMT
Foster's profits from wine business
Pints of beer
Wine is more profitable than beer
A rapid expansion into fine wines has helped Australia's largest brewing firm to boost its profits by a fifth.

Foster's saw its profits rise 21% to 322m Australian dollars (115.4m; US $164.5m) during the last six months of 2001.

We are well placed to ride the wave of any upturn

Ted Kunkel
Foster's Group CEO
And it attributed its financial strength to the successful integration of the Beringer wine division where profits rose by almost a half.

"The stamp of approval on the balanced business wine strategy is now clear for all to see," said the group's chief executive Ted Kunkel.

The beer firm's expansion into other beverages - included buying the US Beringer wine business 15 months ago - raised some fears at the time.

Foster's makes and markets Foster's Lager, as well as Victoria Bitter, Crown Lager, Carlton Draught and Cascade Premium Lager.

Amongst its best-known wine labels are Wolf Blass, Jamieson's Run and Chateau St Jean.

Investors cheer

"Foster's Group is weathering the global economic downturn successfully and we are well placed to ride the wave of any upturn," said Mr Kunkel.

Mr Kunkel, who has been at the helm for 10 years, also denied rumours that he was all set for retirement.

And he hinted that more acquisitions may be on the way.

"We will continue to pursue growth, supplemented by the right strategic acquisition opportunity as they arise," he said.

Part of Foster's expansion drive may have come from analyst comments that the Australian firm could be an attractive takeover target.

Foster's investors were cheered by the news, and the share price rose 3% to close at $4.95.

See also:

10 May 01 | Business
Foster's 'not aware' of Heineken bid
24 Dec 01 | Business
Carling sold to US brewer
28 Nov 01 | Business
Interbrew eyes global expansion
23 Jan 02 | Business
UK's biggest brewer buys into India
03 Dec 01 | Business
SAB buys Chinese breweries
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