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E-Malt.com News article: 3578

USA: Global brewer SABMille 's US business, Miller Brewing, is growing its market share while competitive activity between Miller and Anheuser-Busch, which owns the rival Budweiser brand, is probably stimulating general beer consumption in the US, SABMiller CE Graham Mackay said October 28, according to All Africa. He was briefing the media on the company's performance , although he said he was restricted in what he could say because the group was operating in a closed period ahead of the release of interim results on November 18.

As the group reported in its September trading update, total volume growth in Miller is about 2%, but Mackay emphasised that the mix of business in Miller was more important than average growth numbers. At present Miller had a disproportionate exposure to below-premium-priced beers, and it was focusing on driving the growth of its premium products such as Miller Lite.

Sales of Miller Lite, which is about 45% of Miller Brewing's beer portfolio, have been growing in double digits, even though it is being compared with a more demanding period last year, when it started to turn around. "But the momentum is continuing," Mackay said. Miller is growing faster than Anheuser-Busch in the US and Miller Lite is increasing its share of the premium light beer segment.

It is growing faster than Bud Lite, although Bud Lite is also increasing its market share. The most direct casualty of these moves is likely to be Coors and Coors Lite, Mackay said. Coors had been losing market share at a rapid pace.

When SABMiller bought Miller Brewing two years ago it said it would require about three years to turn it around. This timetable could be pushed out by the change in management in January last year, when SA Breweries MD Norman Adami replaced Miller Brewing CE John Bowlin. SABMiller said it was still a year to 18 months away from being able to say it was running to SA Breweries standards.

In Central America SABMiller's soft drinks business had remained under pressure as a result of price competition, but beer volumes were steady or rising, the company said. In Europe the group was performing strongly in "trying circumstances". This year Europe had a cool summer compared with last year, when the summer was very hot. Beer sales in Europe were more sensitive to the temperature than they are in SA.

There was particularly strong growth in Russia and Romania and, in volume terms, from Poland, said the company. In China sales were comparatively stronger than last year when the effects of the severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic depressed consumption. Sales in India were also growing. Sales of beer in Africa outside SA were continuing to grow at a steady pace while in SA, beer sales were continuing to increase and soft drink sales were rising even faster.

03 November, 2004

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