The world's biggest can maker, Rexam, said soaring aluminium costs had dented half-year profits by three per cent, but its shares rose after it flagged plans for new price rises and more acquisitions.

Valued at almost £3 billion, the firm, which makes 50 billion cans a year for customers such as Coca Cola and Carlsberg, said underlying pretax profit fell to £137 million in the six months to the end of June from £141 million the year before.

But Rexam chief executive Lars Emilson said his company was unfazed, and progress could be expected in the next six months after first-half sales rose by a fifth, helped in part by a heat wave in Europe and the soccer World Cup.

Rexam is also one the world's major producers of glass and plastic bottles.

"We had had a 20 per cent increase in sales, which came against a background of unprecedented rise prices for aluminium, energy and freight," Mr Emilson said, adding that can volumes had climbed by more than a tenth.

Rexam spends around £1 billion a year on aluminium, its largest single raw-material cost, prices of which have sky-rocketed to around $2,500 a tonne in recent months compared with their average $1,400 over the last decade.

Rexam said this year's aluminium orders were now largely covered at prices well below recent peaks, while 2007 was partly hedged.

"Looking forward, we will focus on managing our (profit) margins through pricing and cost efficiencies and strengthe ning our businesses through our strategy for organic and acquisitional growth," Mr Emilson said.

The company's energy bill also rose, by around £20 million to £100 million for the six months, according to finance director David Robbie.

Rexam said it had already spent around £500 million this year on acquisitions and that it still planned to buy more businesses - including in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals - with a focus on emerging markets.

It announced plans to build its second canmaking plant in Russia and another facility in Brazil, one of its fastest-growing markets.

Rexam, the sole supplier of cans for Red Bull, said it was also opening a plant in Austria to help fill the rising demand for energy drinks around the world.

It said underlying earnings per share rose three per cent to 18.4 pence and the interim dividend would rise to 7.9 pence from 7.5 pence last year.

Rexam's can business accounts for three-quarters of underlying profits.

"While the figures are in line with expectations, the underlying story of growth coming from both a push into emerging economies and new innovative plastic-based packaging materials remains attractive," analyst Keith Bowman at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers said. "Overall, Rexam remains a solid, well-managed business, despite a difficult backdrop."

Chairman Rolf Borjesson said sales from ongoing operations grew to £1.8 billion from £1.5 billion and pretax profit was £170 million, up from £119 million.

Ongoing pricing, innovation and cost efficiency initiatives are proceeding according to plan. Despite the challenging cost climate faced by the sector, trading remained in line with expectations.