The US brewer Adolph Coors on Friday responded to recent news reports indicating that US industry beer sales had been soft in the fourth quarter of 2004, by saying it had achieved higher US sales volume and sales to retail for the fourth quarter.

For the 13-week quarter ending December 26, 2004, the company's US sales volumes to wholesalers increased 4.2%, while wholesaler sales to retail increased 0.8% compared to the same period a year ago. Sales volume to wholesalers exceeded sales to retail because the company's distributors rebuilt inventories during the fourth quarter this year to end the year at approximately the same level as last year.

For the company's Americas segment (which includes sales in the US, the Caribbean, Latin America and Asia), sales volume to wholesalers in the fourth quarter increased 4.2%, and wholesaler sales to retail increased 1.0%.

For the 52-week period ended December 26, 2004, US sales volume and sales to retail decreased 0.8% and 0.2%, respectively, compared to full year 2003. Coors Americas segment sales volume for 2004 decreased 0.7% compared to the prior year, while sales to retail decreased 0.3%.

Coors chief executive officer Leo Kiely said: "We are pleased with the increase in our US sales to retail in the fourth quarter, which benefited from the comparison to lower sales in the fourth quarter of 2003, when we faced US supply-chain challenges, along with the introduction of Aspen Edge earlier this year and strong growth from our Blue Moon and Zima XXX brands."

Fiscal 2004 fourth quarter and full-year financial results for Adolph Coors Company are scheduled to be reported on February 9, 2005.