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Lion Nathan full-year profit falls 3.3%

Tuesday 18th November 2008

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Lion Nathan, Australia's second-largest brewer, posted a 3.3% decline in annual profit on costs to upgrade plans and the acquisition of rival beer company J Boag & Son.

Net income in the year ended September 30 fell to A$278.3 million, from A$282.2 million a year earlier, the company said in a statement. The result included net costs of A$5.6 million from the acquisition of Boag, it said. Sales rose 6.5% to A$2.09 billion.

Excluding one-time costs, profit rose 4.2% to A$278.3 million and chief executive Rob Murray said earnings in the current year will rise to between A$300 million and A$315 million, helped by the contribution from newly acquired businesses. Yesterday, Lion Nathan offered to buy Coca-Cola Amatil for almost A$8 billion to create Australia's biggest beverage company.

"The investments that we have made over the last three years have built a stronger business," Murray said. "While economic conditions are currently volatile and the new financial year will be challenging, we're confident that we can achieve an earnings step-up in FY09."

Amatil has said the offer from Lion Nathan is unattractive after it got feedback from 30% owner Coca-Cola Co.

Demand for beer in Australia, where it brews under the Heineken, Tooheys and XXXX brands, and in New Zealand, where its range includes Steinlager and Speights, "remains very robust despite the economic slowdown," Murray said.

Operating profit in Australia rose 7.9 million to A$446.1 million. New Zealand operating profit rose 3.8% in New Zealand dollar terms.

The company will pay a final dividend of 22 cents, up from 21 cents a year earlier.

By Jonathan Underhill

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