* Group Q1 beer volumes up 5 pct vs forecast of 3 pct
* European volumes return to growth helped by Euro 2012
* Poland and Romania lead growth, west Europe still depressed
* Shares up 3.1 percent
By David Jones
LONDON, July 26 (Reuters) - Soccer fever helped global brewer SABMiller to return to growth in Europe as the Euro 2012 tournament boosted Polish beer sales and saw its overall quarterly beer volumes beat forecasts with a 5 percent rise.
The tournament in Poland and Ukraine boosted sales in Poland by 11 percent in the brewer’s April-June first quarter and saw its European sales, heavily weighed to the east, rise 7 percent after several quarters of decline.
Volumes in Romania were up 15 percent, helped by new product launches, with smaller rises in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia. Group beer volumes in western Europe, however, were depressed by poor weather and weak economic conditions.
The world’s second-biggest brewer and maker of Miller Lite, Grolsch and Peroni beers added that price rises pushed up group revenue by 8 percent in the quarter, in line with its own expectations.
The 5 percent underlying quarterly rise, after stripping out the effects of acquisitions, beat a consensus forecast of 3 percent in a survey compiled by the company and follows a 3 percent volume rise in its year to March 31.
SABMiller shares rose 3.1 percent to 27.19 pounds ($42.07) in a slightly higher London stock market by 1100 GMT.
The brewer, which also makes Castle, Snow, Pilsner Urquell and Aguila beers, said that quarterly underlying volumes rose 9 percent in Africa, 6 percent in Latin America, 7 percent in Asia-Pacific and 1 percent in South Africa.
The United States, where it operates through its MillerCoors joint venture, remained weak, with sales to retailers falling 1.4 percent.
Its newly-acquired Foster’s Australian business suffered a 13 percent dip in quarterly volumes after falls of 4 percent and 6 percent in the two previous quarters. The decline was partly because of the termination of some licensed brands after SABMiller’s purchase of Foster’s in December 2011.
The brewer held its forecast for raw materials costs rising at about 5 percent this year and generally flat margins despite the recent spike in grain prices because of a drought in the U.S.
Among SABMiller’s rivals, global leader Anheuser-Busch InBev reports half-year profits on July 31, while Carlsberg and Heineken report on August 15 and 22 respectively.