SABMiller confident despite US price war

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The Independent Online

The brewing giant SABMiller yesterday predicted a better second half for its Miller division in the US, which has been left reeling from a savage price war started by the industry leader Anheuser-Busch.

Despite its troubles across the Atlantic, the world's second-largest brewer, whose brands include Miller Lite, Castle, Pilsner Urquell and Peroni, posted a 22 per cent rise in first-half pre-tax profits to $2.5bn (£1.2bn). Revenues climbed 33 per cent to $15.3bn in the six months to September as sales in emerging markets made up for lower sales in North America.

SABMiller said its North American unit had seen a 12 per cent drop in profits, hit by soaring commodity prices and fierce price competition. Miller Lite suffered a drop in sales volumes as Anheuser-Busch slashed its prices to promote its Bud Lite brand. SABMiller's chief executive Graham Mackay said: "Miller has come off the boil and we are clearly not satisfied, but we are focusing on rekindling growth and we see better growth in the second half."

Miller accounts for 14 per cent of group profits while Europe and South Africa make up about half of profits. The company warned that the US market would remain tough in the second half as the price war and rises in commodity prices showed few signs of abating. Growth in imported and craft beers has also eaten into Miller sales.

The group's underlying beer volumes rose 9 per cent in the half year thanks to strong growth in Europe, Asia and Africa, while South Africa, its biggest market, suffered a slowdown.