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UK drinkers lift SABMiller

<!--StartFragment--> WORLD&nbsp;number two brewer SABMiller said falls in the price of barley and other raw materials should boost earnings later this year after reporting a forecast beating nine per cent dip in full-year profits.<br /><br />The group said weak consumer demand, higher commodities and a strong dollar&nbsp;led pre-tax profits for the year to 31 March to fall to $2.96bn (&pound;1.95bn) from $3.26bn.<br /><br />But despite the fall in profits, the group posted record figures for its UK division Miller Brands. The group said that the&nbsp;reluctance among British drinkers to switch from expensive drinks brands during the recession was boosting trading.<br /><br />The group said strong demand for its bottled lagers increased its share of the UK premium lager market&nbsp;by 20 per cent. UK sales of Peroni were up 40 per cent year-on-year while Pilsner Urquell grew volumes by 20 per cent. SABMiller said the brands &ldquo;significantly outperformed&rdquo; the wider market.<br /><br />Chief executive Graham Mackay said he expects the group&rsquo;s overall costs to rise this year, but he hopes to mitigate the effect by beer price rises and cost cuts to hold group profit margins steady.<br /><br />SABMiller shares&nbsp;yesterday closed up one per cent at 1,231p on top of the stock rallying&nbsp;35 per cent over the last two months as investors anticipated the fall in commodity prices and strengthening emerging market currencies against the dollar.<br /><br />The brewer &ndash; which also makes Grolsch, Pilsner Urquell and Snow &ndash;&nbsp;reported flat underlying annual beer volumes, but saw underlying sales up nine per cent helped by price rises and operating profits five per cent ahead at constant currency.