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Emerging markets’ sales boost SABMiller’s growth

Global brewer SABMiller reported a 3% rise in underlying beer volumes in the first three months of 2012, as growth in the emerging markets of Latin America, Africa and Asia offset declines in Europe and North America.

The world’s number two brewer and maker of Miller Lite, Castle and Peroni beers added on Thursday beer volumes at its newly-acquired Australian business Foster’s dipped 4% in the first three months of ownership in a tough domestic market.

Big brewers are relying on emerging markets growth and price rises to offset sluggish growth and tough competition in more mature markets. SABMiller has a higher proportion of profits from emerging markets than its key rivals at around 70%.

The 3% underlying quarterly rise, after stripping out the effect of acquisitions, was just below an average forecast of 3.3% and was at the bottom of a 3% to 4% range based on a Reuters survey of 10 banks and brokerages. It follows a 3% rise in the nine months through December 2011.

London-based SABMiller said its beer volumes for its full financial year through March were up 3%, with price rises helping push annual revenue up 7%. Overall trading was line with its own expectations, it added.

SABMiller shares edged up 0.3% to 2 624 pence in a slightly higher London stock market by 7.15am GMT.

“The SAB growth story remains firmly intact and revenue momentum is encouraging, but there are still trading headwinds keeping us cautious,” said Investec Securities analyst Martin Deboo, who noted concerns around Foster’s and other developed market regions.

SABMiller bought Foster’s in December 2011 with its near-half share of the Australian beer market, which continues to be hit by weak consumer spending, and the 4% volume fall in January to March followed a 6% dip the previous quarter.

The brewer, which also makes Grolsch, Snow, Pilsner Urquell and Aquila beers, said full-year underlying volumes rose 13% in Africa, 8% in Latin America, 4% in Asia-Pacific and 2% in South Africa.

Europe remained weak with a 1% annual fall, and in the United States, where it operates through its MillerCoors joint venture, sales to retailers fell 2.4%.

On Wednesday, the world’s third-largest brewer Heineken reported a higher-than-expected 4.7% rise in underlying first-quarter beer volumes, sending its shares to a four-year high, but higher costs meant profits declined slightly.

Global leader Anheuser-Busch InBev reports first quarter earnings on April 30 and Carlsberg updates the market on May 9. — Reuters

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