SABMiller posts modest rise in full-year sales volumes

Tuesday 15 April 2014 11.00
SABMiller brews a large number of brands popular in Africa and Asia
SABMiller brews a large number of brands popular in Africa and Asia

SABMiller, the world's second-largest brewer by sales, posted a modest rise in full-year lager sales volumes following troubles in a number of African markets that have been fuelling growth for the past few years.
 
The London-listed company behind beers such as Miller Lite and Peroni also said it was reviewing its "non-core" holding, worth about $1 billion, in South African hotel company Tsogo Sun Holdings.
 
The gaming and hotel company, whose top shareholder is Hosken Consolidated Investments, said it was assisting SABMiller with the review.
 
SABMiller, which has a large exposure to Africa, China and other emerging markets, experienced a number of problems in Africa, where increasing numbers of young, affluent consumers have been drinking branded beer.
 
In Zimbabwe, lager volumes tumbled 18% due to a weak economy, and also fell in Mozambique as political tension limited demand for beer. 

A dramatic increase in excise tax in Zambia hurt sales there as well.

"Overall it was a slightly weaker quarter than expected, and the big area of weakness was Africa," said Bernstein Research analyst Trevor Stirling. "Normally if one country's not working, there's strength in others to cover it."

The brewer, which competes with larger rival Anheuser-Busch InBev, reported overall sales volume growth of 2% for the financial year ended 31 March, with lager volume up just 1% and soft drinks up 5%.

Its shares, which had gained 17% since February on easing fears about emerging markets, were down 2% in morning trade.

Investec analysts downgraded the stock to "Hold," saying that SABMiller's sales growth was not deserving of a premium rating relative to other consumer staples stocks.

A later Easter holiday pushed back sales into the current financial year that started in April and unusually cold weather in the United States also hurt sales in the fourth quarter.

In Europe, group revenue on an organic, constant-currency basis for the full year was flat, though the company said trends improved in the fourth quarter.

In Australia, full-year volume, including discontinued brands, fell 8%, hurt by intensifying competition as consumers move away from beer.

The company, which sells Coca-Cola beverages and other soft drinks in several regions, has recently been putting more focus on soft drinks, including its Appletiser brand.

Revenue per hectolitre rose 2% for the year, but the company said that depreciation of key currencies against the US dollar would hurt its reported results, which it is due to release in May.