Irish drinks group C&C has toasted the staggering popularity of Magners in the UK after the summer heatwave helped double profits at its cider arm.

Cider profits soared to 90 million euros (#60.7 million) in the six months to August after the volume of Magners sold jumped 264 per cent.

It came as the introduction of Magners across the UK following a successful launch in London and Scotland coincided with a sweltering summer.

The roll out was accompanied by a 30 million euros (#20.2 million) advertising campaign targeted at young professionals which promoted Magners with ice.

Chief executive Maurice Pratt said he expected Magners to continue growing its share of the long alcoholic drinks market in pubs and bars.

He said: "It's probably reasonable to say that over a three-year timeframe, four per cent would not be an unreasonable expectation."

C&C also benefited from a seven per cent rise in sales of Bulmers, which is the name for Magners in its native Ireland.

The popularity of its cider drove C&C revenues 27 per cent higher to 532.1 million euros (#359.2 million) and operating profits up 66 per cent to 113.5 million euros (#76.6 million) in the first half.

Chief financial officer Brendan Dwan said that he expected some analysts to upgrade full-year earnings per share forecasts towards the "mid-50s" following the results.

"The guidance we've given would be in line with that," he said.

Analysts currently expect adjusted earnings for the year to the end of February 2007 to be around 51 cents a share.

Reflecting growing demand for the drinks, C&C said last m onth it would invest 200 million euros to double cider-making capacity over the next 18 months.

Mr Pratt said: "C&C expects the strong market performance of its cider division to be sustained in the second half of the year."

C&C are the owners of cider company William Magner, which was once part of Herefordshire-based HP Bulmer.

When Scottish and Newcastle bought Bulmer in 2003 it could not use the Bulmer name in Ireland. In turn, C&C was unable use the name internationally and launched outside Ireland as Magners.