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Rwandan brewer Bralirwa profit lifted by sales of premium beer

(Corrects percentage rise and unit of measurement for sales volumes to hectolitres in paragraph two)

By Clement Uwiringiyimana

KIGALI, April 26 (Reuters) - Rwanda's biggest brewer, Bralirwa Ltd, said on Friday pretax profit rose 33 percent to 10.3 billion Rwandan francs ($11.39 million) in 2018, boosted by sales of its premium brand Mutzig.

The rise in sales of premium beer at the beverage company, a subsidiary of Heineken N.V., came as overall sales volumes rose by 14.6 percent to 1.790 million hectolitres in 2018, it said.

Bralirwa is Rwanda's oldest brewery and has the right to produce beer brands such as Amstel. It also produces branded soft drinks such as Coca-Cola.

Last year it launched local production of Heineken with a plan also to export it to neighboring countries. But Bralirwa said the strained relations between Rwanda and its neighbours Burundi and Uganda were affecting exports.

"This is something we hope will not last long. It being a landlocked country, it needs other countries for us to have access to the sea," said Merid Demissie, its managing director.

"This is extremely important for us. The impact is not big but we definitely need those markets."

The company exports around 5 percent of its total volume to the region but did not give specific details on exports to Burundi and Uganda.

Bralirwa said its earnings per share have risen to 5.5 Rwandan francs ($0.0061), up from 3.75 Rwandan francs ($0.0041)in 2017. ($1 = 904.6947 Rwandan francs) (Reporting by Hereward Holland, editing by Louise Heavens)