* Latin America and Africa lead beer volume rises
* Europe and North America remain weak, Foster's down
* Underlying total beer volumes up 3 pct, in line with
* Says financial performance in line with expectations
* Share price up 0.1 percent to 2,299 pence
By David Jones
LONDON, Jan 19 Global brewer SABMiller
reported a 3 percent rise in beer volumes in
the last three months of 2011, as growth in African and Latin
American markets helped offset falls in North America and
The world's second-largest brewer and maker of Miller Lite,
Peroni and Grolsch also said on Thursday that beer price rises
helped the group to push up its underlying revenue in its
October-December third quarter by 7 percent.
The London-based group said overall its financial
performance was in line with its expectations as price rises
helped offset moderate rises in raw materials like barley, wheat
and corn as analysts look for flat profit margins for its year.
However, beer volumes at its newly-acquired Foster's
Australian business dipped 6 percent in the quarter and although
not included in its overall figures showed the challenge faced
by Foster's new chief Ari Mervis in such a difficult market.
SABMiller makes 70 percent of its profits in emerging
markets and therefore has a lower exposure to flat western beer
markets than its three big rivals Anheuser-Busch InBev,
Heineken and Carlsberg.
Investors were looking for a 3 percent rise in underlying
third-quarter volumes, based on a Reuters survey of 10 brokers.
This was after a similar April-Sept first-half rise made up of a
strong first quarter, ahead 5 percent, and a flat second quarter
hit by rain and cold weather in China and eastern Europe.
SABMiller shares edged up 0.1 percent to 2,299 pence in a
slightly higher London stock market by 0840 GMT, having already
risen 10 percent from a low in late November of 2,075 pence.
Analysts said the update was generally positive highlighting
the group's big emerging market exposure and wide geographic
spread, but there were some concerns over its mature markets.
"The regional split still strikes us as a mixed bag, with
positive growth in emerging markets offset by negative volume
momentum in Europe, USA and the newly acquired Foster's
business," said analyst Martin Deboo at Investec Securities.
The brewer which also makes Castle, Snow, Pilsner Urquell
and Aquila beers said third-quarter underlying volumes rose 11
percent in Africa, were up 8 percent in Latin America, 7 percent
ahead in Asia Pacific and 2 percent firmer in South Africa.
Europe remained weak with a quarterly 2 percent fall and in
the United States, where it operates through its MillerCoors
joint venture, sales to retailers fell 3.3 percent.
The brewer has been busy deal-making, buying Foster's last
month for $11.9 billion, swapping its Russian and Ukrainian
units last October for 24 percent of Turkey's Anadolu Efes
, and this month saying it would be keen to buy
Castel's African brewing business in a potential $10 billion
deal after forging closer ties with the private French group.
Other big brewers report the Oct-Dec quarter and 2011
results over the coming weeks with Heineken due to issue results
on Feb 15, Carlsberg on Feb 20 and the world's largest beermaker
AB-InBev on March 8.