China brewer Tsingtao annual profit rises 12.6 pct, matches forecast

HONG KONG, March 29 (Reuters) - China’s second-largest beer maker Tsingtao Brewery Co Ltd posted a 12.6 percent rise in 2018 net profit, helped by its efforts to control costs, prevent excess production, enhance product mix and boost efficiency.

The iconic Chinese beer maker, which competes with larger local rival China Resources Beer (Holdings) Co Ltd, made a net profit of 1.42 billion yuan ($210.7 million) for the January to December period, versus 1.26 billion yuan a year earlier, the brewer said in a filing to the Hong Kong bourse late on Thursday.

That compared with an average forecast of 1.41 billion yuan by 15 analysts, according to estimates compiled by Refinitiv. It was the highest profit since 2015 when it reported profit of 1.71 billion yuan.

Tsingtao posted sales of 26.58 billion yuan, up slightly from 26.28 billion yuan a year ago. That was compared with an average forecast of 26.2 billion yuan for 2018.

Chairman Huang Ke Xing said demand for premium, imported and craft beers was growing rapidly.

“There is certain potential in increasing the profit and sales of the Chinese beer industry through the further optimisation of capacities as well as adjustments in product structure and pricing,” Huang said in the statement.

China is the world’s largest beer market by sales but firms have found it challenging to deliver profits due to fierce competition between local brewers and global beer giants.

The country’s top brewer, China Resources Beer, posted a 16.9 percent fall in 2018 profit. ($1 = 6.7381 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Donny Kwok; Editing by Stephen Coates)