Heineken Ireland said its share of the Irish beer market continued to increase in a market experiencing continuing decline. The company's sales volumes increased by 5% during the first six months of the year, while the total beer market was down 5.6% on the same time last year.

Heineken larger maintains its top spot and holds almost 30% of the overall larger market. The group's Amstel brand continued to show strong growth, while its Coors Light product is now the number two bottle in the US bottled larger segment in Ireland.

Murphy's Irish Stout's ex brewery sales, while showing an increasing take home sales performance, experienced an overall 4% downturn in a declining stout segment. Internationally, the brand is available in over 70 countries and is experiencing growth in the major stout markets of the UK, US and Scandinavia.

The company said that relative to European market models, the pub continues to be the mainstay of the trade here. However, the on-trade - with over 80% of the beer market - continued to lose share to the off-trade and is down a further 2% on last year.

The off-trade sector showed growth of 8% against the first half of 2003 with Heineken's total share of the packaged market up 1.2%.

Meanwhile, the company's Dutch parent said its first-half net profit had fallen by 27% to €293m due to adverse exchange rates. Heineken posted a net profit of €400m in the first six months of 2003, but that figure had included exceptional items.

The company said it expected full-year net profit to be lower as well, but nonetheless forecast organic profit growth.