* 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
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
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.
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.
Last month, Asahi cut its annual operating profit forecast
by 3.1 percent to 93 billion yen because of weak domestic
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)