SABMiller boosted by Asia

BREWING giant SABMiller beat forecasts with a three per cent rise in beer volumes in the last three months of 2010, boosted by growth in Africa and Asia.

The London-based brewer of Miller Lite, Peroni and Grolsch said that beer price rises helped boost its quarterly revenue by six per cent.

Strong volumes growth in Asia and Africa offset volume dips in Europe and both North and South America in its October to December third quarter which is heavily dependent on summer beer drinking in the southern markets of South Africa and Latin America.

Investors were looking for slightly higher beer volumes. Second quarter volumes had been up three per cent after a one-per cent first quarter fall.

The brewer, which earns over 80 per cent of its profits in emerging markets Colombia, South Africa, Poland and China, is seeing a strong recovery in many of these markets, while mature markets are being held back by high unemployment hitting consumption.

Columbian sales were held back by flooding in the country.

But third quarter lager volumes were up 16 per cent in China as it continues to be the key growth driver.

Growth in Britain and Ukraine helped offset falls in Russia and the Czech Republic as its premium brands Pilsner Urquell and Grolsch sold well.

“Trading momentum, as evidenced by today’s trading update from SABMiller, remains strong; while regional comments from the group reinforces our pecking order among the brewers – SABMiller is our top pick in beer,” said analyst Simon Hales at brokers Evolution Securities.

The brewer’s shares closed 1.7 per cent higher at 2,209p after the results impressed investors.

Minimum booze price plans on the table

THE COALITION yesterday unveiled plans for a minimum price for alcohol in England and Wales.

Ministers want to ban shops and bars from selling drinks for less than the tax paid on them.

That will mean a can of lager must cost at least 38 pence and a one-litre bottle of vodka at least £10.71.

Health campaigners say that is too low to have an impact, but the drinks industry described the proposals as a “pragmatic solution”.

“By introducing this new proposal we are sending a clear message that the government will not stand by and let drink be sold so cheaply that it leads to a greater risk of health harms or drunken violence,” said Home Office minister James Brokenshire in a statement.

Last year, the Scottish Parliament rejected plans for a minimum price per unit of alcohol of 45p, because it was feared the move would penalise responsible drinkers.