China powers SAB beer growth
performances in North America and South Africa during brewer
SABMiller's third quarter.
The results reinforce the importance of emerging markets to brewers in 2007, and suggest the mature North American beer sector will continue to be sluggish.
Beer sales growth of more than 30 per cent in China during the quarter reflected SABMiller's determination to out-gun rival brewers through its joint venture there, China Resources Snow Breweries.
After the initial gold rush, the race is now on in China to build a truly national beer brand.
CRSnow earlier this month signed a deal to buy the remaining 38 per cent of shares in the Blue Sword group, which owns 14 breweries in China's Sichuan province - a region relatively undeveloped by multinational brewers.
SAB has a 49 per cent share in CRSnow, which is already the largest brewer by volume in China's affluent eastern provinces, ahead of domestic beer brand Tsingtao by 15 per cent.
SAB backed up strong growth in China with a 13 per cent rise in lager volumes across Europe, thanks to mild winters in its main markets of Russia, Romania and Poland.
Lager volumes also rose 12 per cent in South America during the quarter, which ended 31 December.
Success in these three regions helped to push up SAB's total lager volumes by 10 per cent, slightly higher than the 9.5 per cent rise in the same period last year.
Beer markets in North America and South Africa brought up the rear. The former has shown a little more promise recently, on the back of imported beers, but SAB's organic sales to retailers were still down 0.9 per cent on the same quarter last year.
The peak season in South Africa hardly brought more cheer, with lager volumes creeping up just one per cent during the quarter.