SABMiller Profits Up 27%, Miller Volume Down 4.5% in US

International brewing giant SABMiller has posted pre-tax profits of $770 million for the year to the end of March 2003, up 27% from the previous year. The corporation’s Miller Brewing unit, which SAB acquired last July for $5.6 billion, performed below expectations, with volumes falling by 3.7% in the nine months since July, with volumes in the US down by 4.5%, according to SABMiller CEO Graham Mackay, noting that while international volumes had risen by 6.6%, it would take three years to turn the US brewer around.

Miller continues to be a source of concern. Market share losses have accelerated, but CEO Mackay expects that company initiatives and changes will result in “real progress within two to three years.” Analysts have expressed this concern in the markets; JP Morgan analyst Nigel Davis downgraded SABMiller shares from “overweight” to “neutral” and cut his earnings forecast for the company for the coming year by 7%. SABMiller recently announced its acquisition of a majority stake in the Italian brewer, Peroni, and has also announced the formation of a joint venture between its Indian subsidiary and the Indian brewing group, Shaw Wallace.