High end lager boosts Peroni firm SABMiller

PERONI maker SABMiller has put its UK success down to more drinkers searching for a premium pint as it revealed that sales had risen despite a declining market.

The international brewing giant said yesterday that sales of its beers, which also include Grolsch and the increasingly popular Pilsner Urquell, were up four per cent on a volume basis in the year to April, even as the overall beer market fell 5.1 per cent.

“The total market is down, but against that I think you’re seeing the market’s fragmenting between economy beers and premium beers with a squeezed middle ground, and we are benefiting from that because we have several brands in the premium segment,” Gary Haigh, who oversees SABMiller’s UK and Ireland business, told City A.M.

“We have been very cautious on the brand positioning and expanding the brand so we have been able to sustain that premium price,” Haigh added, pointing out that SABMiller maintains its premium perception by only selling in 8,000 of the UK’s roughly 100,000 drinking establishments and expanding at a rate of fewer than 500 a year.

Peroni makes up the large majority of SABMiller’s UK sales, although Pilsner Urquell grew 10 per cent in the year.

SABMiller, which makes 75 per cent of its cash in emerging markets in Africa, Latin America and Asia, saw revenues rise 10 per cent in the year although profits before tax fell 16 per cent due to the impact of one off charges related to restructuring. Without these charges profits were up 11 per cent at $5.6bn (£3.7bn) while group sales were $34.5bn.

Asia Pacific was the biggest area of growth on a sales by volume basis, with North America the only market to see a decline.

The company’s shares, which were trading at all-time highs earlier this month, declined yesterday as analysts warned over the outlook in South Africa and Columbia.