The company recorded a profit of $462.9 million in fiscal 2002-2003 (ending June), down from $560.9 million in the previous year as one-off charges totalling $105.2 million - including the closure of the Kent brewery in Sydney - hit the bottom line.

  

Foster's president and chief executive Ted Kunkel said the figures, when one-off items were stripped out, showed a solid underlying performance but warned markets remained challenging and results were likely to be flat in the current year.

  

"Foster's business balance and premium brands have once again delivered solid underlying earnings growth, strong cash flows and improved returns on capital employed," Kunkel said.

  

He said 8.3% growth in earnings in the second half was "particularly pleasing".

  

In a reversal of recent trends, Foster's beer business provided stronger growth than its wine operations, as tight margins and the stronger Australian dollar impacted on wine earnings.

 

"Foster's business balance and premium brands have once again delivered solid underlying earnings growth, strong cash flows and improved returns on capital employed."

Foster's president Ted Kunkel

The CUB Australian beer division delivered a 7.6 percent increase in earnings of $ 463.1 million and the international beer business recorded a 25.5% growth surge in earnings.

  

Foster's said its beer division was expected to build on its strong performance in the past year but the outlook for the wine division was mixed.

  

Wine earnings were down 3.1% to $ 428.8 million and the company said the "intensely competitive" US market, the main driver for recent growth, was likely to weigh on strong wine results in other international markets.

 

After a gloomy fiscal 2002,  the global liquor industry fared better during the last fiscal.