Established operations in growth markets
South Africa has had an exceptionally successful year. Behind the growth we see some recovery in the market share of beer as against wine and spirits plus the trickle-down effect of an improving consumer economy. We also see good performances from our two international premium brands introduced last year – Miller Genuine Draft and Pilsner Urquell – and from efforts to make soft drinks more affordable by offering smaller, returnable containers. In both beer and soft drinks, the past year has reestablished the long-term upward trend in sales and shown that South Africa is capable of further organic growth.
Our wider Africa portfolio produced its usual share of ups and downs but a strong result overall. We benefited from the earlier restructuring in Kenya and Tanzania and saw strong progress from Angola where the economy is recovering after the long civil war. The end of the year brought new acquisitions in Algeria and Morocco through our joint venture with Castel, which itself performed very well.
Our businesses in Europe produced excellent results. In Poland, the growth which previously swelled the mainstream market is switching to the premium and economy sectors and our own portfolio is changing in response. Russia, meanwhile, has taken over as a significant source of volume growth and we’re investing further in our Kaluga brewery to meet demand. Pleasingly, our Czech business saw further increases in both volumes and prices. Our volume growth in Hungary outstripped the market and we are in the process of acquiring the Aurora brewery in Romania to strengthen our number two position there.
Four of the countries in which we operate joined the EU on 1 May 2004. The consequent restructuring may be disruptive in the short term, but we should see future benefits in the respective consumer economies.
In Central America, we’ve concentrated on improving our brand portfolios along with sharper market focus and greater operational efficiency. Earnings have risen as a result.
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