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SABMiller has reported a drop in like-for-like beer sales by volume in its fiscal first quarter, as gains from the World Cup, Africa and Asia failed to outweigh lower demand in Eastern Europe and the US.

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Like-for-like volumes slipped by 1% for the three months to the end of June, SABMiller said today (22 July).

The Peroni Nastro Azzurro brewer said that consumer demand across its markets remained "uneven", in an assessment that will do little to inspire confidence of a recovery in key beer markets.

However, the firm said that price increases have held up net sales and that trading for the quarter was in-line with its expectations.

Eastern Europe proved to be the biggest thorn in SABMiller's side during the quarter. Volume sales fell by 9% in Russia, broadly in-line with the market following a three-fold tax rise on beer implemented in January. In Romania, SABMiller volume sales slumped by a fifth compared to the same period last year, while it also reported declines of 8% and 10% in Czech Republic and Poland respectively.

MillerCoors also continued to struggle in a US beer market hit by strong rises in unemployment. The venture, shared 50-50 by SABMiller and Molson Coors, reported a 2.4% drop in volume sales to retailers and a 3.5% fall in sales to wholesalers for the three months.

"Recent excise-related price increases and, in the first two months, the timing of Easter, poor weather, and specific events in Poland and Colombia held volumes back in a number of key markets," said SABMiller's CEO, Graham Mackay, ahead of the company's annual general meeting in London today.

There were volume gains for the brewer in Africa and Asia, which reported rises of 7% and 4% respectively.

The World Cup also helped the firm to offset weak market conditions in South Africa, where it reported beer volume sales level against the first quarter of last year.

However, there were indications that the group lost some market share in South Africa. The country's beer market "grew marginally" during the same period, it said.  

"We continued to increase our investment in brands and other market facing activities," said Mackay. "Overall, the financial performance of the group in the quarter was in line with our expectations."


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