* Underlying beer volumes down 1 percent year-on-year
* Beer volumes improved through the quarter, growing in June
* Says financials in line with expectations
* Shares up more than 2 pct from less than 1 pct before news
(Updates shares, adds more analyst comment)
LONDON, July 22 Brewer SABMiller SAB.L
SABJ.J reported a decline in first-quarter beer volumes on
Thursday despite a World Cup boost, after floods, national
mourning and a tax hike hit drinking in key markets.
The brewer of Miller Lite, Peroni and Pilsner Urquell said
that underlying beer and soft drink volumes were 1 percent down
year-on-year. Investors were on balance expecting fractionally
lower lager volumes, based on a Reuters poll of six analysts,
with forecasts ranging from -1 to +1 percent.
However, the Chief Executive Graham Mackay said in a trading
statement for its April-June quarter that lager volumes improved
through the quarter, showing growth in June.
SABMiller's London-listed shares were up 2.7 percent at 1953
pence at 1445 GMT, from 1915 pence before the announcement. The
Stoxx food and beverage index .SX3P was 1.3 percent higher.
Analysts said the June recovery was a promising sign for the
coming quarters, when the company would also benefit from easier
comparables in the United States and South Africa. Strong
pricing was also a positive.
"Volumes recovered in June... although that's really what
you would expect with the World Cup in June and slightly better
weather," said Alex Oldroyd, analyst at Barclays Capital, which
this week cut its rating on SABMiller to equal weight from
overweight. "They are also saying some costs are down."
The world's No 2 brewer after Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI.BR)
added that its financial performance was in line with its
expectations, with higher prices in places and some reduction of
SABMiller scored with its dominance in South Africa, hosts
of the soccer World Cup, but the national sides of Poland and
Colombia, key markets for the company, did not not qualify for
Lager volumes in Colombia slumped 6 percent due to increased
excise duty on beer, pushing up prices, poor weather and five
dry days around presidential elections.
Volumes in Europe, mostly in eastern Europe, fell 9 percent,
with poor economic conditions, flooding and nine days of
national mourning in Poland over the death of the president
limiting lager sales.
In South Africa, where SABMiller has some 90 percent of the
market, the company has said it sold an extra 130,000
hectolitres, or about 44 million extra standard cans or bottles,
due to the World Cup.
However, the Easter peak was in the first quarter this year.
Unusually cold and wet weather did not help. Overall volumes
there were flat.
In the United States, where it formed the MillerCoors
(TAP.N) joint venture in July 2008, sales to retailers fell 2.4
percent in the quarter, depressed by economic concerns,
particularly among the core younger drinking population.
Growth was strong in Africa and Asia.
SABMiller achieved 2 percent volume growth in the three
months to end-March due to its extensive emerging market
presence, surpassing figures of rivals Anheuser-Busch InBev
(ABI.BR), Heineken (HEIN.AS) and Carlsberg (CARLb.CO).
They all report first-half results next month.
(Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien and Philip Blenkinsop in
Brussels; writing by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Samia