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Graham Mackay, chief executive of SABMiller, said to day at the company's AGM that the comapny had achieved a good start to the year.

Mackay said: "The group has achieved a good start to the financial year, with the performance for the first quarter to 30 June being in line with our expectations at the time of our preliminary results announcement in May of this year. All of our businesses have contributed towards a pleasing increase in adjusted earnings per share for this period when compared with the prior year.

"In North America, Miller's US domestic sales to retailers (STRs) increased by 2.8% over prior year, reflecting the continued growth of the Miller Lite brand which commenced late in the first half of the prior year. This growth was partially offset by reductions in other brands. Financial performance is in line with our expectations.

"Economic and competitive pressures continued to impact our Central America business and total beverage volumes were down by some 2%. However, selective price increases and restructuring benefits have contributed to improved profitability.

"Our European business has produced good results with organic lager growth of 3% across the division. Volume growth in Poland, Russia and Romania was offset by reductions elsewhere in Europe, largely as a result of poorer weather following the exceptionally hot weather in the prior year.

"The Africa & Asia business continues to perform well. Organic lager volume growth of 10% was primarily driven by improved trading conditions in China compared with the prior year which was impacted by the SARS epidemic. In Africa, our business continues to post volume growth in both lager and carbonated soft drinks.

"In South Africa, beer volumes have continued to grow. Beer gained further share of the total liquor market, and volumes were up by approximately 4% on the prior year. Good financial performance in local currency has been enhanced in US dollar terms by a stronger South African rand exchange rate."

In the year ended 31 March 2004, the group generated US$1,391 million pre-tax profit from a turnover of US$12,645 million. SABMiller plc is listed on the London and Johannesburg stock exchanges.


Sectors: Beer & cider

Companies: SABMiller

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