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SABMiller Q3 beer volumes flat, misses forecasts

Brewing giant SABMiller missed forecasts as it reported flat third-quarter worldwide underlying beer volumes as consumer demand was varied with some regions showing signs of recovery and others subdued.

The London-based brewer, which lost out to Heineken in the race for Mexican brewer FEMSA Cerveza earlier this month, reported level volumes for its October-December 2009 quarter compared to analysts forecasts for a 1% rise.

This came after the group reported a 1% fall for its half-year to end-September 2009, as growth in China and other emerging markets such as Latin America and Africa helped to offset falls in Europe, North America and South Africa.

The world's second-ranked brewer behind Anheuser-Busch InBev which brews brands such as Miller Lite, Peroni and Grolsch added that its financial performance in the quarter was in line with its own expectations.

Underlying beer volumes for the first nine months of its financial year to end-December 2009 were off 1%.

SABMiller like other brewers has seen volumes hurt by the global downturn, but it is expecting falling commodity costs such as barley and the generally weaker dollar to help its earnings in its second-half to end-March.

SABMiller, which also brews Castle, Snow, and Pilsner Urquell beers, said beer volumes rose 4% in Latin America, grew 5% in Asia boosted by 6% growth in China and its Africa region was 7% ahead, while volumes were down 2% in Europe and off 4% in South Africa.

In the United States, where it formed the MillerCoors joint venture in July 2008, sales to retailers were 3.6% down in the quarter with both key brands Miller Lite and Coors Light showing volumes declines.

The group, which earns nearly 90% of its profits from emerging markets like Colombia, Tanzania, Poland and China was giving a third-quarter trading update ahead of its full-year results on May 20. (Reuters)