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SABMiller has toasted the performance of its South American business as it issued a 10% rise in full-year global volumes.

The brewer said today (12 April) that, including its South America operation, from 12 October 2006, 12 months after it became part of the group, total lager volumes were up by 23% year-on-year to the end of March.

Speaking to just-drinks, a spokesperson for SABMiller said: "South America has been performing fantastically well. The performance has picked up acceleration into the end of the year, which shows clearly that the benefits of our actions there are starting to come through."

In October 2005, SABMiller paid US$4.8bn for a majority stake in Bavaria, Latin America's second-largest brewer, which dominates beer markets in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Panama.

When asked about the performance of Miller in the US, where full-year domestic sales to retailers were level with the prior year and down by 3% on an organic basis, the spokesperson said: "The industry overall was pretty weak in the year, but our numbers have accelerated since March, and we're starting to see our strength come back in." Miller Lite is growing in all channels in the US, the spokesperson noted.

The company also has high hopes for the China beer market, where volumes leapt 30% year-on-year for SABMiller. "We're on-track to sell more beer in China than the entire UK beer market," the spokesperson said. In the year to December 2006, total beer sales in the UK, including lager and bitter, reached 57m hectolitres, while in the same period SABMiller shifted 50m hectolitres in China.

When asked about the effect the loss of Heineken's Amstel brand in South Africa would have on SABMiller in the country, the spokesperson pointed to forecasts the company issued last month. "Amstel's sales in South Africa run at about 2.3m hectolitres a year, and we're expecting a full-year pro-forma impact for 2008 of around US$80m on our earnings," he said. The brewer is expecting to retain half of the lost volume, however, in part through the launch of its international Peroni Nastro Azzuro brand on draught in the coming months.

The spokesperson also said that the brewer has lined up another beer for the South African market. Hansa Marzen Gold will roll out across the country this month.

SABMiller will deliver its full year-end figures on 17 May.


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