SABMiller said today (28 July) that it has achieved a good start to the year, with volumes and financial performance in line with expectations.

CEO Graham Mackay said that, in the first quarter to 30 June, all of the company's major businesses have "contributed towards an increase in adjusted earnings per share for this period when compared with the prior year.

"In North America, Miller's US domestic sales to retailers (STRs) increased by 1% over the prior year, reflecting the continued growth of the Miller Lite brand in a weak and competitive industry trading environment. Miller Lite performance was partially offset by a net reduction in the volume of other brands but within these the Milwaukee's Best and High Life franchises achieved growth."

A statement from the company said that total regional beverage volumes in Central America were in line with the prior year. However, as expected, excise and competitive pressures continued to impact its beer business, with volumes lower than the prior year.

 "Our Europe business has produced good results with organic lager growth of some 6% across the division," Mackay added. "Most of our European operations have seen volume and share growth in the quarter led by Poland and driven primarily by marketing and sales initiatives.

"The Africa & Asia business achieved organic growth in lager volume of some 15%, principally due to improved trading conditions in certain of our China regions and in Tanzania and Mozambique. In Africa, our lager volumes grew, despite the Botswana currency devaluation, and the business continues to post volume growth in carbonated soft drinks.

"In South Africa, beer volumes were in line with the prior year on a comparable basis (adjusting for the transfer of management responsibility to the Africa division for exports to Angola during 2004) despite poor trading conditions in April, which were subsequently off-set by improved trading in May and June. April's volume performance was also impacted by the absence of an Easter period. Soft drinks volumes showed strong growth, rising by some 6% during the period."