Miller Profits Up Big-time

High margin brands and Lite surge help push earnings up 27%

Miller Brewing Co. posted a 27 percent increase in earnings in fiscal 2008 with total domestic sales to retailers increasing 3.1 percent for the year

The company said profits benefited from a migration to higher margin, higher growth segments of the beer market, including craft beers and imports. Miller Lite and High Life both posted an increase of 1.1 percent after three years of declining sales. The brewer’s high margin beers — Leinenkugel’s, Sparks and Italian import Peroni — posted double-digit growth in sales.

Miller’s parent company, SABMiller plc, said that Miller’s revenue increased 5 percent in the fiscal year ended March 31, to $5.1 billion from $4.9 billion the year before. Earnings before exceptional items increased to $477 million from $375 million in fiscal 2007.

Miller sold 500,000 barrels of Chill during fiscal 2008, which contributed $100 million in revenue, Miller Brewing Co. CEO Tom Long said in a conference call with reporters Thursday morning.

The launch of Miller Chill in fiscal 2008 “exceeded expectations,” but sales of the brand were highly seasonal, with the vast majority of sales occurring from mid-April through November 2007.