LONDON (AP) ¿ SABMiller PLC, the world's second-largest brewer, said Thursday that volumes of lager sales dropped 1 percent in the first half of its financial year due to weaker consumption in the U.S., Europe and Latin America. SABMiller, whose international brands include Grolsch, Peroni and Miller Genuine Draft, said trading conditions were difficult across many of its markets in the six months to Sept. 30, but that revenue was supported by price increases taken in the previous year. It added that financial performance for the half year was in line with expectations but it gave no figures on earnings. Soft drink volumes were up 1 percent across all regions. SABMiller has fared better than rivals Heineken NV and Carlsberg A/S in the economic downturn because of its stronger presence in markets like Africa and Asia, which have proved more resilient. Lager volumes increased 9 percent in Asia and 3 percent in Africa on an organic basis, that is excluding new acquisitions. China was a standout market, with sales volumes growing 12 percent, although the company noted that wet weather and flooding in the Central and Southern regions slowed momentum in the second quarter.
Europe was the company's weakest region, with depressed consumer spending resulting in a 6 percent fall in volumes. In South Africa, where the company was founded, volumes fell 3 percent. Lager volumes in India were 22 percent below the prior year due largely to disputes over pricing and excise increases in some regions. MillerCoors, SABMiller's joint venture in the U.S. and Puerto Rico with Molson Coors Brewing Co. created in July, also struggled. MillerCoors U.S. domestic volume sales to retailers were down 1 percent. Premium light brand volumes were down low single digits in the quarter due to decline in Miller Lite and Coors Light sales. The import portfolio grew slightly during the quarter, driven by high single digit growth of Blue Moon. Domestic sales to wholesalers were down 0.7 percent in the second quarter compared with the prior year. All volume figures were reported on an organic basis, discounting the effect of acquisitions and disposals. SABMiller shares were up 0.2 percent at 1,634 pence in midday trade on the London Stock Exchange.