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Japan's Kirin, hit by virus, says helped by expansion beyond beer

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s Kirin Holdings cut its full-year profit outlook on Friday as the coronavirus pandemic hit global sales of its beer, but said its expansion into new businesses such as healthcare sheltered it from a bigger impact.

Kirin said it now expected a full-year net profit of 64.5 billion yen ($616 million) down from a previous forecast of 115.5 billion yen, as beer drinkers avoid visiting bars and restaurants.

The figure still represents an 8% gain from a year earlier, and the company said it was helped by stronger sales of newer categories such as craft beer and non-alcoholic beer, as well as growth in its pharmaceuticals business, Kyowa Kirin.

The company recently faced pressure from British-based activist investor Independent Franchise Partners, which demanded that it shed investments in cosmetics and drugs to focus on beer.

Kirin has said its investments in Kyowa Kirin and cosmetics company Fancl Corp were crucial, given a decline in domestic beer consumption and a global shift towards healthier living.

The group’s revenue for the six months through June fell 6% from the corresponding period a year earlier to 872.5 billion yen.

($1=105.5600 yen)

Reporting by Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Clarence Fernandez