Interbrew, the Belgian brewer with operations across the globe, has reported continued growth in the first nine months of the year with volume sales rising 16.8 per cent to 65.5 million hectolitres.
Net turnover from continuing operations rose 17.3 per cent to €5.2 billion during the nine month period, while earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose 21.2 per cent to €1.1 billion. All figures exclude the impact of the sale of the Carling/Bass business and a €61 million restructuring charge in the UK.
Organic volume growth during the period was 1.8 per cent, but acquisitions helped increase volumes by a further 15 per cent, while organic sales growth was 5.2 per cent and acquisitions added a further 13.4 per cent. Interbrew was only marginally impacted by exchange rates during the period, with turnover dropping 1.3 per cent as a result of the currency effect.
In actual terms, however, volume sales, turnover and EBITDA showed a decrease of 2.5 per cent to 66.6 million hl, 3 per cent to €5.3 billion and 8.5 per cent to €1.1 billion respectively, impacted by the sale of the Carling business in the UK in February.
Interbrew was forced to sell the Carling business - which was included in the 2001 figures - after the British competition authorities ruled that its acquisition of the Bass and Whitbread businesses could only go ahead if the Carling brand, the country's biggest-selling lager beer, was sold. Interbrew's Stella Artois brand is the leading premium beer brand in the UK, and the combination with Carling would have given the Belgian company too large a slice of the market.
In western Europe, a cool summer impacted the beer market as a whole, but Interbrew said that it had managed to post organic volume growth of 3 per cent compared to just 0.3 per cent for the same period in 2001. The company also increased market share in all key markets.
Stella Artois showed double-digit growth in the United Kingdom, while in Germany, the recently acquired Beck's brand continued to outperform the industry despite its premium pricing.
In the Americas, Interbrew experienced strong volume growth during the nine month period, outperforming other imported beer brands in the US with particularly strong performances by Tecate and Stella Artois. Both Rolling Rock and Beck's performed well in the third quarter, with increases in shipments of 5.4 per cent and 4.4 per cent respectively.
In Central Europe, there were good performances from Interbrew's brands in Croatia, Hungary and the Czech Republic. But this was offset by a disappointing performance in Bulgaria, where competitors in the low-price segment put pressure on pricing.
In eastern Europe, results were impacted by the depreciation of the Russian rouble and the Ukrainian hrivna against the euro. Growth slowed significantly in Russia during September, and Sun Interbrew's operations there were disappointing. As a result of its late entry into rapidly growing PET and can packaging, the company is now focused on building distribution in these two packaging segments, where it is expected to take some time for Sun Interbrew to reach its fair market share.
In the Ukraine, Interbrew maintained its market leadership with volume growth of 5.3 per cent.
In the Far East, the company saw its volume growth in South Korea slow to 3.5 per cent during the nine months, with third quarter volumes decreasing to levels below those of the same period in 2001. In China, where the beer market is set to increase its pace of consolidation, Interbrew's brewery in Nanjing registered a turnaround in turnover during the period, helped by a 66 per cent volume increase.