UK-based brewing group Scottish & Newcastle (S&N) has issued an upbeat trading statement for the first nine months of the year.

The brewer said that its results for the first nine months had been "robust", and that its Baltic Beverage Holding (BBH) joint venture with Carlsberg was continuing "to show strong growth". S&N said that third-quarter volumes had improved throughout all regions, in spite of softness in western European markets.

The strong performance, the brewer said, had been driven by a continued focus on brand building and innovation, citing strong growth of SuperChilled in the UK, Sagres in Portugal and Grimbergen in France and Belgium.

The brewer forecasts that in spite of weak consumer confidence and cost pressure from increasing oil prices it will meet market expectations for 2005.

In the UK, total branded beer and cider volumes were up by 5.6% for the third quarter on the back of weaker comparatives. The company's four main brands, Foster's, Kronenbourg 1664, John Smith's and Strongbow, all performed well with volume growth for the third quarter ahead of growth in the first half, S&N said.

S&N conceded that Western European markets outside the UK continued to be weak but volumes had improved in all regions in the third quarter.

In the US, demand for Newcastle Brown Ale continued to show double-digit growth in the third quarter, while in Asia both of the company's joint ventures had reported good results. United Breweries in India showed volume growth of 24.6% for the three months to September, while S&N's Chinese joint venture with the Chongqing government had posted volume growth of 21.2% in the same period.