SABMiller Sees Unexpected Drop In Beer Shipments

World’s second-largest brewer by volume said beer shipments declined 1 percent in the third quarter as the global economic slowdown took hold in key markets.

LONDON (AP) -- SABMiller PLC, the brewer of Grolsch, Miller Genuine Draft and Peroni Nastro Azzurro lagers, reported an unexpected fall in beer shipments in the third quarter as the global economic slowdown took hold in key markets.

SABMiller said lager volumes declined 1 percent in the three months to Dec. 31, compared to a year earlier.

"Consumer demand has been affected by the current global economic slowdown, and has continued to weaken in many of the group's markets," the company said in a statement.

However, it added that its financial performance over the quarter was still in line with expectations "notwithstanding the relative strength of the US dollar against the group's major currencies."

The company's shares dropped 1.5 percent to close at 1,044 pence ($15.22).

SABMiller, the world's second-largest brewer by volume after losing the No. 1 spot to Anheuser-Busch Inbev NV following InBev's $52 billion acquisition of Anheuser-Busch last year, said in November that it was scaling back investment in the face of continued cost pressures and slowing demand for beer worldwide.

Demand has been hardest hit in the United States and Europe.

U.S. domestic sales by MillerCoors, the company's joint venture with Molson Coors Brewing Co., fell 2.3 over the third quarter, while premium light brand volumes were down 2.4 percent.

But Thursday's report also showed that sales volumes in developing countries, where it gets around 80 percent of its profits, are slowing as the impact of the credit crunch deepens.

Third-quarter shipments rose 2 percent in Latin America, stymied by a 6 percent decline in Colombia, the company's biggest market in the region. In Africa and Asia, organic lager volumes increased 2 percent, with growth in China flat.

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