SABMiller has reported a dip in global beer volumes for its fourth quarter, reflecting the impact of the economic downturn in its markets acrosss Eastern Europe, Latin America and Asia.

Like-for-like beer sales by volume were flat for the 12 months to the end of March and fell by 1% in the final quarter of the year, SABMiller said in a trading update today (16 April). Beer volumes on a non-comparable basis rose by 2% for the year.

Beer sales suffered in the fourth quarter due to the effects of the global economic downturn on consumer spending, the UK-listed brewer said.

It added, however, that full-year sales revenue rose by high single digits, due to beer price rises, and that trading for the year was in-line with the company's expectations.

Eastern Europe proved particularly difficult for SABMiller. Like-for-like beer volume sales in Russia fell by 7%, due to wholesalers running down their stocks amid weakening consumer confidence, although volumes were flat in the fourth quarter.

SAB's volumes also fell by 4% in Czech Republic for the year. Volumes rose by 18% in Romania, but "slowed significantly" in the second half, the brewer said.

In other markets, China reported a 4% rise in beer volume sales for the year, despite a weakening economy and last year's earthquake in Sichuan province, one of SAB's strongholds in the country. China saw double-digit growth in the fourth quarter.

In Latin America, meanwhile, SAB grew volumes by 1% for the year, as 9% and 14% growth in Peru and Ecuador respectively offset decline in Colombia. Africa produced a net volume sales rise of 5% for the group, although South Africa saw sales slip by 2% for the year.

In the US, MillerCoors, the joint venture between SABMiller and Molson Coors, reported volume sales to retailers down 0.4% for the nine months to the end of March, compared to the combined volume sales of both firms' separate operations in the same period of the previous year.