Review of Operations
North America
 
2003*
Financial summary
US$m  
Turnover

3,473  

EBITA**
250  
EBITA margin (%)
7.2  
Sales volume (hls 000s)
– Lager – excluding contract brewing
33,852  
             – contract brewing
8,172  
– CSDs
55  
*Nine months.
**Before exceptional items being integration costs of US$17 million and Tumwater brewery closure costs of US$35 million.
 
Far left
Miller Lite consumers

Left
Miller delivery in the
downtown Chicago area
 
We acquired Miller Brewing Company in July 2002, giving the group access, through a national player, to a growing beer market with the world's largest profit pool, and at the same time diversifying the currency and geographic risk of the group.

Since acquisition, we have commenced the integration of Miller into the group, and we have made some important changes to the management team. Norman Adami, previously chief executive of our highly successful Beer South Africa business, was appointed as president and chief executive in February 2003. Whilst a number of tactical initiatives have been implemented in the period under review, we are focused on developing our longer term strategy and action plans to deliver value.

In the nine month reporting period, US beer industry volumes were affected by low consumer confidence, a lacklustre economy, recent world events, and poor weather, resulting in industry volumes being level with those of the prior year. Total Miller volume, after adjusting for a distributor stock reduction programme implemented in March, was down 3.7% with domestic volume falling by 4.5% (6.2% before adjustment). Certain of Miller's core brands have been losing market share for a number of years. However, the rate of decline increased over the past year and we believe this to be due to a combination of factors including loss of management focus on core brands following the introduction of four FMBs and some understandable disruption during the transaction and subsequent integration into SABMiller. Contract brewing volumes grew 3.6% and international volumes grew by 6.6%.

EBITA, for the nine month period, of US$250 million, before exceptional items of US$52 million, reflects the impact of the volume decline, as well as negative brand, pack and geographic mix, increased cost of raw materials and greater energy costs, partly offset by higher selling prices. There were also a number of significant one-time restructuring charges including costs associated with the uplift and write-off of excess production of the FMB brands, Sauza Diablo and Stolichnaya Citrona, and the reduction of four and one half days of inventory held in distributor warehouses, which together amount to US$40 million. A further US$16 million of FMB launch costs, as reported in our interim results, were also expensed during the year. Before taking account of the exceptional and other costs referred to above, EBITA for the nine month period was US$306 million.

A number of tactical initiatives have been implemented in respect of Miller Lite and Miller Genuine Draft (MGD). New packaging for Miller Lite was introduced at the beginning of this year and recent advertising has attracted considerable consumer attention, particularly with the 21-28 year old target audience. This increase in brand visibility will be followed up with a clear repositioning of the brand itself in the autumn of 2003. Supporting these brand initiatives is the high quality of the Miller Lite product which has been recognised and is evidenced by Miller Lite winning its third gold medal at the 2002 World Beer Cup. Miller High Life enjoyed modest volume gains, continuing the 2% per annum growth trend established with the 1998 brand repositioning. Award winning advertising, innovative packaging initiatives and a recent low calorie brand extension have contributed to the success of this brand. We will continue to invest behind this brand, building on our achievements to date.

Skyy Blue has become the fourth largest spirits branded FMB in the US with volumes totalling over 500,000 hls since its introduction in April 2002. We continue to view the FMB segment of the market as offering value and will invest appropriately behind our brands.

Exports and international sales of Miller brands, led by MGD, continue to provide volume growth and stable income. We expect to achieve further growth in this area through leveraging the distribution network across the SABMiller group during the current year.

Much work is being undertaken on rebuilding the Miller brands and reshaping the portfolio. We will reposition the Miller trademark based upon extensive in-depth consumer research and mapping, with the first elements of the new architecture becoming visible in autumn 2003. We will, during the next 18 months, also be implementing initiatives to strengthen sales and distribution based upon our experience in other parts of the SABMiller group. These initiatives include prioritisation of local markets, improved channel management, strengthening and reorganising our sales force and improved management of distributors.

It will take time for the benefits of the brand repositioning and sales and distribution initiatives to become evident. However, we have identified opportunities to reduce costs over and above those included in the US$50 million of synergies described
at the time of the acquisition. Importantly, we are also upgrading the performance management systems across the organisation and will be taking appropriate actions to implement a productivity and cost reduction programme.

Miller profitability will be impacted over the next two to three years by the current volume declines, adverse mix effects and the ongoing restructuring and reorganisation necessary to establish our platform for growth, although we are confident that our efforts will deliver shareholder value in the medium term. For the current financial year, we expect that EBITA, pre exceptional and before restructuring and reorganisation costs, will be trending lower than comparable previous periods.