SABMiller H1 beer volumes show bounce back

SABMiller H1 beer volumes show bounce back

London: Brewing giant SABMiller reported a recovery in beer sales over the summer months on Monday boosted by the emerging markets of Africa and Asia as it beat forecasts with a 1% rise in half-year volumes.

The London-based brewer of Peroni, Grolsch and Miller Lite, said that growth in these markets and also in South Africa helped cushion volumes dips in Europe and North America during in the group’s April-September first half.

The group said the beer volume growth, price rises in the prior year, some raw material cost cuts and the strengthening of key operating currencies against the US dollar helped its financial performance for the half year to be in line with its own expectations.

Investors were looking for slightly higher beer volumes based on a Reuters poll of ten analysts, with forecasts ranging from -0.5 to +1% and a consensus for growth of 0.3% after a first quarter April-June reported fall of 1%.

The brewer, which earns over 80% of its profits from emerging markets Colombia, South Africa, Poland and China, is seen by analysts as interested by buying Foster’s Group beer interests or the African beer business of France’s Castel.

The second largest brewer in the world after Anheuser-Busch InBev, SABMiller has suffered from the global downturn but is starting to benefit as slow recovery get underway, and it expects raw materials such as barley to be flat to slightly down this year as it is well hedged against recent grain price rises.

The group, which also brews Castle, Snow, and Pilsner Urquell, said underlying volumes rose 11% in Africa, by 10% in Asia and by 3% in South Africa but were marginally down in Latin America and fell 5% in Europe.

In Africa, the volume figure was boosted by the inclusion of Zimbabwe following the stabilisation of the economy and the adoption of the U.S. dollar as its currency. Excluding Zimbabwe, African beer volumes would have been only up 7%.

In the United States, where it formed the MillerCoors joint venture in July 2008, sales to retailers fell 3.2 and were down 4% in the second quarter hit by economic uncertainty and high levels of unemployment.

The group added that its soft drinks volumes for the half year were up 2% in an underlying basis.

SABMiller reports its results for its half-year to end-September on 18 November.