The third largest brewer in the US, Adolph Coors Company, today announced a significantly better start to the year than it got last year, with first quarter 2004 net income of US$4.8m, or $0.13 per diluted share, up from US$0.8m a year earlier.

The figures were achieved despite a small fall in volume in the company's US volumes.

For the 13-week quarter ending 28 March 2004, the company achieved consolidated net sales of $923.5m, an 11.5% increase from 2003.

First quarter 2004 sales volume totalled 7,040,000 US barrels, or 8,261,160 hl, a 1.8% increase from 2003. 

Leo Kiely, CBC president and chief executive officer, said: "The first quarter of 2004 was a better start than last year for Coors Brewing Company. Overall, our results improved significantly against difficult operating results a year ago in both our Americas and Europe segments. Although we did not succeed in growing our Americas volumes, we did achieve progress on cost initiatives and supply-chain improvements in the US.

"In addition, we grew volume and share in the UK while increasing operating margins, and our Coors Light business in Canada continued its strong performance."

Kiely added: "Our Americas segment net sales and pretax earnings in the first quarter of 2004 improved substantially from the prior year, despite a slight decline in sales volume during the quarter."

Kiely said the initial reaction to the introduction of Coor's low-carb Aspen Edge brand had been positive. However, the brand's impact on the first quarter results was small because the rollout began late in the quarter. "But we expect Aspen Edge to be a more significant contributor to sales after we complete the brand's national rollout by early May," he said.

"In our Europe segment, beer volumes, net sales and pretax income all grew in the quarter.  Results in the segment were driven by increased owned-brand volume and solid margin performance in both our on-trade and off-trade businesses.  These positive factors were partially offset by increased overhead expenses and lapping of the last of our transitional service arrangements income in the first quarter of last year.  Our start to the year in the UK is very encouraging, though it is important to note that the first quarter is the smallest profit quarter of the year in this segment," Kiely said.

"Looking ahead, we will continue to focus on growing our big brands in our priority markets, innovating and generating news around our portfolio of brands, strengthening our retail execution, and making more progress lowering costs - the strategies that we believe are fundamental to winning in the beer business on both sides of the Atlantic."