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24-05-2012 08:40:00

SABMiller Warns On Mature Beer Markets As Profit Jumps

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LONDON -(Dow Jones)- SABMiller PLC (SAB.LN) Thursday said consumer spending in mature beer markets remain subdued, even as the brewing giant posted a 75% jump in net profit, with higher revenue driven by volume growth in emerging economies and price increases.

The London-based company, which has a secondary listing in Johannesburg, is benefiting from rising demand for premium beer across Latin America, Asia and Africa, where expanding adult populations and rising incomes are driving consumption.

SABMiller makes about 70% of its earnings from developing economies--a higher level of exposure than its rivals, including Carlsberg AS (CARL-A.KO) and Heineken NV (HEIA.AE).

The world's No. 2 brewer by revenue after Anheuser-Busch InBev NV (BUD) has compensated for a cutback in spending in North America and Western Europe, as well as escalating commodity costs, by promoting higher-margin premium beers, paring costs and raising prices in key markets to bolster margins.

"Trading conditions are expected to be broadly unchanged, with further growth in our developing markets, but no more than modest improvements in consumer spending in some more developed economies," the brewer said in a statement.

Net profit for the fiscal year ended March 31 jumped 75% to $4.22 billion, with the year-earlier period hit by exceptional finance costs. Earnings before interest, taxes and amortization--a closely watched measure--increased 12% to $5.63 billion, missing consensus market expectations of $5.67 billion.

Revenue, which includes three-and-a-half months' trading from its recently acquired Foster's unit, rose 11% to $31.4 billion, beating consensus market expectations of $31.3 billion.

The company recorded beer volumes of 229 million hectoliters, up 3% on the prior year, excluding acquisitions and disposals.

The maker of Grolsch, Peroni Nastro Azzuro and Miller Lite said African, Asian and Latin American volumes rose 13%, 4% and 8%, respectively. South African volumes grew 2% on a reported basis.

In North America, MillerCoors LLC--the joint venture between SABMiller and Molson Coors Brewing Co. (TAP)--said domestic sales to retailers were down 2%.

European volumes fell 1% amid difficult economic conditions.

The company recommended a dividend of 91 cents per share, up 12%.

SABMiller shares closed Wednesday at 2397 pence, valuing the company at GBP38.2 billion.

-By Simon Zekaria, Dow Jones Newswires; +44 207 842-9410; simon.zekaria@dowjones.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 24, 2012 02:40 ET (06:40 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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