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SABMiller First-Half Global Beer Volumes Rise 11%

Global brewing giant SABMiller said on Monday its half-year worldwide underlying beer volumes rose 11%, but it showed a sharp slowdown in one of its most profitable regions, Latin America.

The world's number two brewer and maker of Miller Lite, Peroni, Castle and Chinese Snow beers said growth in its half year (April-Sept) was similar to the 11% in the five months to end-August, but down from its first first-quarter (April-June) rise of 13%.

SABMiller, which last week agreed with Molson Coors to combine their US operations in a venture to be called MillerCoors, added growth in revenue was partially offset by higher input costs, such as barley, glass and aluminum, and increases in investment across the business.

"Although overall growth remains strong there has been quite a sharp slowdown in some of the more profitable regions (notably Latin America), and the issue of rising input costs and higher investment levels persists," said Cazenove analyst Matthew Webb.

Latin America, which earns a quarter of group profits after the company bought Bavaria in October 2005, reported half-year volumes rose 8%, after a first-quarter 12% rise, implying 4% growth in the second quarter, analysts said.

Its biggest Latin American market, Colombia, saw volumes up 7% with slower growth in the latter part of the half-year, while in its second largest regional market, Peru, volumes were up 10%, hit by cold weather and an earthquake this year.

Europe also showed a slowdown with half-year volumes up 12% driven by Russia, Poland and Romania after a 17% first-quarter rise. Europe makes a fifth of group profits from beers such as Polish Tyskie and Romanian Ursus.

In North America, Miller showed further signs of recovery with half-year sales to retailers up 1.4% after a 1.3% rise in the five months to end-August and a 0.7% first-quarter fall. Miller Lite sales were up 2.1%.

Its Africa and Asia beer volumes rose 20% after a first-quarter rise of 23%, while in South Africa -- its biggest profit centre with 33% of group earnings -- volumes rose 2% after a first-quarter rise of 4%.

The London-based brewer and added its financial performance was in line with its own expectations.