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SABMiller posts drop in global beer sales

SABMiller has announced a one percent drop in global beer sales for the first three months of 2009 as the worsening economic climate brought about a fall in demand in key markets.

The London-based brewing giant, which owns the Miller Lite, Peroni and Grolsch brands, said today that global underlying beer volumes fell one percent in its fourth quarter to end-March, falling well short of average analysts expectations for a 0.8 percent rise.

A group statement said: "Economic conditions deteriorated in the second half and consumer demand has fallen in most markets, particularly in the fourth quarter.”

SABMiller, which earns nearly 90 percent of its profits from emerging markets like China, South Africa, Colombia and Poland, added that its financial performance was affected by currency movements as the dollar strengthened against many emerging currencies.

However, the brewer countered this problem by pushing through price rises and said its financial results for the year to end in-March remained in line with its own expectations.

Overall beer volumes for the 12 months to end-March rose two percent, but were flat on an underlying basis after stripping out the effect of acquisitions.

The group, which also brews Castle, Snow, and Pilsner Urquell beers, said annual underlying volumes rose four percent in the Africa and Asia region and by one percent in Latin America, but remained static in Europe and fell two percent in South Africa.

In the US, where it set up the MillerCoors, joint venture in July 2008, sales to retailers fell 0.4 percent in the nine months to end-March, with 0.4 percent growth seen in the January-March quarter.

Alan Lodge, 16.04.2009 

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