SABMiller weathers stormy season

Robert Laing

Robert Laing

Blizzards during China's New Year celebrations and the loss of the Amstel brand in South Africa slowed SABMiller's lager volumes growth to 7percent excluding acquisitions.

Buying Dutch brewer Royal Grolsch for ß816million (R10,3billion) last November boosted 2007's total beer volumes 11percent for the year ended in March. SABMiller is expected to launch Grolsch locally to parry Amstel owner Heineken stepping up competition by building a Gauteng brewery in partnership with Diageo and Namibia Breweries.

Higher input costs for barley, aluminium for cans and other commodities saw prices rise faster than beer volumes.

SABMiller's revenue grew 16percent over the year, the brewer said yesterday.

It said the group's underlying performance had been good and was at the upper end of management's expectations.

This was despite flat growth in its most lucrative market, South Africa.

The loss of Amstel, which had accounted for 9percent of the domestic market, was expected to cost SABMiller sales worth $300million (R2,4billion) and profit of $80million (R633,47million) in both 2008 and 2009.

Despite bad beer drinking weather during the Chinese lunar new year in February, top selling brand Snow managed "subdued" growth over the 30 percent registered in the previous year's final quarter.