SABMiller has credited the beer markets of Africa and Asia for keeping its volume sales level in its latest quarter.

The global brewer said today (31 July) that lager volumes for the three months to the end of June were level with the same period a year earlier, with volumes from Africa and Asia up by 11% on an organic basis for the quarter.

In Africa, lager volumes delivered a 4% increase, with "strong performances" from businesses in Uganda and Zambia, and from SABMiller's associate, Castel. China's organic lager volumes grew by 17%, driven by further national market share gains for SABMiller's jointly-owned Snow beer brand.

While lager volumes in Latin America were flat, thanks to a 1% dip in Colombia, lager volumes in Europe were 7% down, as household debts, tighter credit control and rising unemployment continued to depress consumer spending and resulted in beer market contraction across the region. Poland's lager volumes were down 8%, with an excise increase, double-digit food inflation and bad weather all significantly impacting the beer market. In Russia, lager volumes fell 9% but market share remained level.

In the US, sales to retailers from the MillerCoors unit were down 0.8% on a pro forma basis. SABMiller's premium light brand volumes were down slightly in the quarter with a mid-single digit decline in Miller Lite volumes partly offset by low single-digit growth of Coors Light and accelerated growth of MGD 64.

SABMiller will issue a trading update for MillerCoors on Monday.

The company's South African market grew by around 2%, although the underlying market continues to be affected by weakening consumer demand, rising unemployment and constraints on the sale of alcoholic beverages in the Western Cape. Lager volumes were down by 2%, while soft drinks volumes were in line with the prior year.

SABMiller's total soft drinks volumes were 2% up in the quarter.

"The global economic slowdown has continued to dampen consumer demand, although the impact on volumes has varied between our markets," said SABMiller's chief executive, Graham Mackay. "Across the group, revenue benefited from firm pricing in the prior year, and we continued to focus on cost efficiencies and, in certain markets, restructuring activities in order to reduce our cost base." The company's financial performance for the quarter was "in line with our expectations", Mackay added.

In a separate announcement today, SABMiller said that Howard Willard, executive vice president of strategy and dusiness development with Altria, will become a non-executive director. Willard, who will assume the position from tomorrow, has been nominated under the terms of the relationship agreement between Altria Group and SABMiller as part of the Miller Brewing Company transaction in 2002.

Under the terms of the relationship agreement, Altria can nominate up to three representatives for appointment as non-executive directors of SABMiller. As neither of the two directors currently nominated by Altria are now members of Altria's executive management team, Altria has felt it appropriate that one of its nominees should be an executive officer of Altria.