Shares in SABMiller fell this morning (31 July) after the brewer said organic lager volumes dipped by 1.6% in its first quarter.

Slower beer market growth in China, lower consumer spending in some markets and a "challenging environment" in South Africa contributed to the slip in organic lager volumes in the three months to 30 June, SABMiller said in a trading statement.

The brewer's share price slipped GBP0.35 following the news, but the company added that overall lager volumes were up by 1.5% and that its performance was in-line with management expectations.

SAB reported a mixed performance in emerging markets, with organic lager volumes down 5% in China due to the recent Sichuan earthquake and beer price increases. Volumes also dropped 2% in Russia, reflecting a beer market slowdown in the country, and were flat across Latin America.

Romania grew volumes by 22%, ahead of the market, led by the continuing success of the Timisoreana brand.

In North America, where SAB will now operate with Molson Coors as MillerCoors, volume sales to retailers dropped 2%, but premium imported brands continued to show good growth, increasing sales by 8%. 

SAB remained silent on speculation it may be open to a tie-in with Mexican beer and soft drinks group FEMSA. Several analysts believe FEMSA may look to bring in a major brewer should its Mexican rival Modelo form a partnership with InBev, following InBev's takeover of Anheuser-Busch.

FEMSA, which has a distribution deal with Heineken in the US market, has repeatedly stated its wish to remain independent. But just-drinks understands SAB would be on a list of interested brewers, should FEMSA decide to seek an international partner.