SABMiller Quarterly Sales Beat Estimates on Africa, Asia

SABMiller Plc, the world’s second-biggest brewer, reported fourth-quarter beer sales that beat estimates as gains in Africa, Asia and Europe offset an unexpected decline in Latin America.

So-called organic lager volume rose 4 percent in the three months to March 31, the London-based brewer of Grolsch and Castle lager said today in a statement. That compares with the median estimate of 2.5 percent from 11 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News. Growth for the full year was 3 percent.

Volume in Latin America, the company’s largest region, fell 1 percent in the quarter, missing the median estimate for a 5 percent gain, hurt by weaker economic conditions and price increases in some markets. This was more than offset by growth of 12 percent in Asia-Pacific, 9 percent in Africa and 3 percent in Europe, all of which exceeded analyst estimates.

“People may be nervous on the Latin America number as that’s been such a massive growth engine for the stock, and it’s a high margin region,” said Melissa Earlam, an analyst at UBS AG in London. Asian sales were aided by an “extremely strong rebound in China,” where SABMiller sells Snow, the world’s biggest brand by volume.

SABMiller shares fell 0.5 percent to 3,324 pence as of 8:22 a.m. in London, giving the brewer a market value of 53.3 billion pounds ($81 billion).

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The brewer’s overall financial performance “was in line with our expectations,” SABMiller said in the statement.

Asia-Pacific sales also benefited from improving lager volume in Australia following the 2011 acquisition of Foster’s Group Ltd. for A$10.5 billion ($10.8 billion). Premium brands also performed well in the quarter, the company said.

Volume growth in Europe was boosted by new brand innovations as well as purchases by customers ahead of price increases implemented at the end of March, SABMiller said.

Gains in Africa were driven by additional capacity and greater availability of products, the brewer said.

SABMiller’s fourth-quarter revenue rose 4 percent on an organic basis as the company sold more expensive beer.