Europe lager sales tumble at SABMiller

BREWER SABMiller yesterday reported a recovery in beer sales boosted by the emerging markets of Africa and Asia – sales of lager dipped by five per cent in Europe.

Overall the company beat forecasts with a slim one per cent rise in half-year volumes.

The London-based brewer of Peroni, Grolsch and Miller Lite said yesterday growth in these markets and also in South Africa helped offset volume dips in Europe and North America in April to September.

On Europe SABMiller said: “The industry continued to be affected by weak economic conditions across the region. Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania suffered particularly poor sales.

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 SABMiller’s results to meet its own expectations.

“We see this statement as a small positive for SABMiller and retain our ‘overweight’ recommendation,” said analyst Matthew Webb at JP Morgan Cazenove, the company’s own broking adviser.

Webb left his earnings per share forecast unchanged at 186 cents for the year to March 2011.
The brewer, which earns over 80 per cent of its profits in emerging markets Colombia, South Africa, Poland and China, is seen by analysts as interested in buying Foster’s Group’s beer interests or the African beer business of France’s Castel.

Meanwhile, the company said it had resumed reporting results from its 36 per cent stake in Delta Corp, the biggest brewer and soft drinks bottler in Zimbabwe. SABMiller had stopped including Zimbabwe results in 2006 because of the country’s shattered economy.