• Currency rates hit sales and pre-tax profits
  • Beer volume sales fall 1%
  • Group begins four-year cost savings plan

SABMiller, the global brewer, has reported a drop in half-year beer sales and pre-tax profits and expects beer markets to remain sluggish in the next six months.

Net sales fell by 6% to US$13.3bn for the six months to the end of September, after unfavourable currency rates dragged the figure down from $14.2bn in the same period of last year, SABMiller said today (19 November).

Pre-tax profits fell by 26% for the half-year, but adjusted net earnings for the period rose to $1.2bn from $1.1bn last year, said the brewer, which owns Miller Genuine Draft and Peroni Nastro Azzurro beers.

Like-for-like beer sales by volume slipped 1% over the six months, as growth in China and several African countries failed to offset weakness in the US and Eastern Europe.

CEO Graham Mackay said: "In some of the toughest economic conditions seen for decades, we have continued to take share in a number of markets."

He blamed weakness of major operating currencies against the US$ for damaging earnings and sales, but he said this is expected to ease off in the second half of the year.

On beer sales, he said: "We expect the current trading conditions to continue in the second half, as unemployment, retail spending and other consumer indicators lag the reported stabilisation of GDP in many of our markets."

Today's results announcement came as SABMiller announced it has begun a four-year cost savings programme, designed to save $300m annually from 2014.

"Finance, human resources and procurement activities will be streamlined by deploying global information systems, establishing a global procurement operation and selectively outsourcing certain activities," said the brewer.

A one-off charge of $370m relating to the move is expected in SABMiller's full-year results.

Click here for an update containing more information on this and extra comment from Mackay on the group's performance.