Brewing giant Scottish & Newcastle yesterday raised a glass to the football World Cup and sparkling summer weather after posting a 12 per cent boost in first half profits.

The brewer of heavyweight brands Foster's, Strongbow and Kronenbourg said pretax profits to June 30 rose to £187 million.

S&N saw revenues push ahead six per cent to £1.99 billion during the six month period, while it also reported that operating profits increased eight per cent to £227 million.

But shares in the group - Britain's biggest brewer - fell some three per cent after analysts said the figures were nothing to get excited about.

S&N said that June's World Cup tournament added two per cent to beer and cider market growth in the UK, although the impact on the continent was negligible.

The hot summer weather had a positive hit on volumes as people flocked to pubs, which offset the effect of adverse weather during the preceding months.

The company said its market share increased 0.6 per cent within a beer and cider market that improved by 2.8 per cent over the period. The company's own brands increased volumes by 4.9 per cent.

Chairman Sir Brian Stewart told shareholders: "Our continuing investment in building our brand strength has clearly delivered in terms of consumer appeal and appropriate financial return."

In April the company signed a £309 million deal that gave it full ownership of the Foster's brand in Europe and launched Foster's Twist in June.

Meanwhile, it also benefited from the introduction of three new cider products - Strong-bow Sirrus, Bulmers Original and Jacques.

The brewer also cheered the performance of Newcastle Brown Ale in the US, which it said was "outperforming" with volumes up 21 per cent in the stateside market.

But in Britain, profit margins were pushed down from nine per cent to the upper part of the eight to nine per cent range as a shift from the ontrade to the off-trade during the World Cup, combined with higher packaging costs on larger pack sizes, hit returns.

Group finance director Ian McHoul said: "There was some modest slippage in UK margins which was largely a World Cup phenomenon."

But fears that heavy discounting by the major super-market chains would have a more marked effect proved unfounded.

"We managed to hold our own on pricing," said Mr McHoul. "While there still is a lot of discounting going on, this is largely being funded by the retailers themselves," he added.

The group said UK profits - accounting for 40 per cent of its total - rose just three per cent, while its international business including France, Portugal, Finland and Belgium saw flat profits, leaving Russia as its only significant growth area.

"Against a backdrop of the World Cup and great summer weather, S&N should be doing better, in our opinion," said analyst Simon Hales at JP Morgan.

Broker Cazenove also pointed out that 73 per cent of S&N's profits come from markets that are either slow growing - the UK and Portugal - or declining - France and Finland - and viewed the results as rather disappointing.

"The shares have had a good run in expectation of a strong set of interim figures, but the numbers are rather disappointing. We would look to take profits," the house said in an investment note.

Meanwhile, S&N also said it would reveal a new worldwide cost-cutting plan in February, which analysts say could save it annually over £30 million.

The brewer said the cuts would be focused on its operational side, but it gave no indications of the size or the effect on jobs.

"The programme will be across the board and produce meaningful new costs savings over the next three year," said Ian McHoul.

Shares closed down 13.5p at 519.