* Kirin H1 operating profit surges 49 pct to 59.8 bln yen
* Keeps FY op forecast at Y133 bln vs consensus Y139.5 bln
* Hot summer boosts sales; doesn't change overall trend-pres
* Brewers seek growth abroad to offset weak domestic market
* Shares up 0.6 pct before results vs Nikkei's 0.6 pct fall (Adds details)
TOKYO, Aug 16 Japanese brewer Kirin Holdings (2503.T) posted a record first-half operating profit after it cut costs to offset sluggish sales but kept its outlook unchanged despite a summer heatwave that is bolstering demand for drinks.
Japan's beer market has shrunk by more than 15 percent over the past decade as the population ages, consumer spending sags and drinkers opt for cheaper alcoholic beverages, prompting brewers to step up cost-cutting and seek acquisitions to expand into growing foreign markets.
"Unfortunately the condition is not something that will lead us to revise our overall annual forecast," Kirin's president, Senji Miyake, said of the boost to beverage sales since late July amid the scorching summer weather.
Kirin, which is running neck-and-neck with Asahi Breweries (2502.T) for the title of Japan's top beer maker, reported on Monday an operating profit of 59.83 billion yen ($694 million) for the January-June period, up 49 percent from 40.2 billion yen a year earlier.
For the full year to December, Kirin kept its forecast for operating profit to edge up 3.6 percent to 133 billion yen, lower than the mean estimate of 139.5 billion yen in a poll of 15 analysts by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. It expects sales for the year to contract 4.3 percent.
Kirin, maker of "Ichibanshibori" beer and the "Afternoon Tea" bottled drink, said in July that it would buy a 14.7 percent stake in beverage and property conglomerate Fraser & Neave (FRNM.SI) to accelerate its expansion in Asia. [ID:nSGE66P0DT]
The firm is on the lookout for other acquisitions, Miyake said, though he added that Kirin was not considering any specific deals now.
Asahi, meanwhile, has a war chest of $9.2 billion to spend on overseas expansion over the next five years, the company's president, Naoki Izumiya, told Reuters earlier this month. [ID:nTOE67107L]
Last month, Asahi cut its annual operating profit forecast by 3.1 percent to 93 billion yen because of weak domestic demand.
Shares of Kirin have fallen more than 20 percent so far this year, underperforming a 13 percent decline in the benchmark Nikkei average .N225.
The stock ended up 0.6 percent before the results announcement on Monday, against the Nikkei's 0.6 percent gain. (Reporting by James Topham; Editing by Chris Gallagher)
Our top photos from the past week.