SABMiller has succeeded in posting earnings before interest, tax and amortisation (EBITA) of US$1.893 billion, above market expectations as total lager volumes increased 18.9% to 137.8m hls, with organic growth of 3.7%.

In particular the company highlighted that the turnaround of its Miller brand was on track and growing in momentum.

Meyer Kahn, the chairman said: "I am delighted to report that the financial year has been outstanding, with adjusted earnings per share up by 44%. Recognising this strong performance, the board has recommended an increased final dividend, bringing the total for the year to $0.30, a 20% increase on the prior year.

"It is particularly gratifying that all of our businesses performed well. The results from Miller are beginning to show the benefits of our turnaround programmes and our Central American operation delivered higher earnings. There were strong results from South Africa, in both beer and soft drinks, with Africa and Asia again producing an impressive performance. Once again we saw good growth in Europe, with Russia performing particularly well.

"Looking ahead our strategy continues on course and we have generated the momentum to produce another year of growth."

Total group beverage volumes of reached 173.9m hectolitres up 15% on last year's 151.4m hl.

Turnover, including share of associates, increased by 41% to $12.645 billion.

In the US, the company said that the Miller Lite brand is leading the recovery and in the coming year it will seek to improve the trends in other key brands as it increases the marketing investment.

The Central America business delivered pre-exceptional EBITA of $76m, an increase of 36% over prior year. Whilst beer volumes grew by 5%, volumes of carbonated soft drinks (CSDs) fell by 4%.

The European operations delivered organic lager volume up by 8%. Pre-exceptional EBITA was up 39%, up 22% organically in constant currency, with most countries improving volumes, market share and margins.

Beer South Africa EBITA grew by 54%, 15% on a constant currency basis, benefiting from volume growth of 3%, an improvement in year-on-year pricing and ongoing operational productivity.

Going forward, a statement said: "We are well positioned by virtue of our geographic reach and balance, the quality of our businesses and our financial strength, to continue to deliver value to shareholders. The 2004 results reflect strong performances across the group, and for the coming year we believe that we are in a good position to continue to generate growth in earnings."