Flat sales dog SAB Miller as volumes wane

Brewing giant SABMiller yesterday reported flat underlying beer volumes for the third quarter as subdued consumer spending continued to take the fizz out of its sales.

Shares in the London-listed company ended the day more than two per cent down on the news that volumes for the three months to the end of December were only level.

Analysts had been hoping for a one per cent rise from SAB, which brews brands such as Miller Lite, Peroni and Grolsch, following signs that consumer spending had begun to recover in some regions.
Over the first nine months of SAB’s financial year, sales were down one per cent.

“The reason for the shortfall was Asia, as poor weather hit Chinese sales,” Evolution Securities analyst Simon Hales said. “Europe was in line with our forecasts, Latin America ahead and South Africa below.”

In Latin America, volumes were up four per cent, and the company’s Africa region had the biggest boost in sales, gaining seven per cent. Soft drinks also saw volumes grow, up two per cent in the quarter on an organic basis.

Sales growth in China slowed to six per cent as heavy snow and wet weather dampened customer demand. Volumes in India were down seven per cent following an increase in excise duty. Europe also suffered, with volumes falling two per cent in the quarter.

In the US, where it formed the MillerCoors joint venture in July 2008, sales to retailers were 3.6 per cent down in the quarter with both key brands Miller Lite and Coors Light showing declines.

Along with other brewers, SABMiller has seen volumes decline amid the global downturn. The group recently tried to buy the Mexican brewer Femsa Cerveza in a bid to shore up a larger base in a growth market, but lost out to rival Heineken.