|EBITA margin (%)*
|Sales volume (hls 000s)
|– Lager comparable
|– Other beverages
Lager volumes grew 26% (8% on an organic basis), influenced by the good European summer of 2003 and a very strong performance in Russia. The division produced a third consecutive year of excellent profit growth with pre-exceptional EBITA up 39%. In constant currency terms, organic EBITA growth was 22%. The rate of EBITA increase against prior year was lower in the second half than in the first, reflecting the increased seasonality in the division following the Peroni acquisition. Improved sales mix within most markets, pricing ahead of local cost increases and improved productivity resulted in organic, constant currency EBITA margin enhancement. However, the reported margin was impacted by the lower current margins of Peroni and Dojlidy.
The Polish beer market expanded by around 6%, with disproportionate growth in the lower priced segments. Kompania Piwowarska’s total volumes increased by over 8%, while organic volumes were marginally ahead of prior year. The Dojlidy business, which we acquired during the year, grew 10% on a proforma basis against prior year. The rate of Kompania Piwowarska’s volume growth improved during the second half as distributors responded to an improved incentive programme, and increased focus in the on-premise channel started yielding results. The Zubr and Debowe brands showed particularly strong growth, with Zubr now at a 4% national share and the flagship Tyskie brand exceeding 5.6 million hectolitres. Improved production standards and continuing good cost productivity contributed to continued growth in EBITA.
In the Czech Republic a strong domestic volume improvement of 4% in a market that grew by 2% reflects the hot summer as well as share gains. Increases in marketing spend helped boost growth to 6% in the higher value on-premise channel and this, together with increased average prices of 4%, improved overall margins. Our international premium brand Pilsner Urquell grew some 11% domestically and 7% globally. Favourable procurement contracts and operating efficiencies contributed to a substantial profit improvement, which was further enhanced by the firm Czech currency.
In May 2003, SABMiller acquired 60% of Birra Peroni SpA for €246 million (US$299 million, including acquisition costs). Industry volumes in Italy grew strongly during the summer and the full year’s growth rate was approximately 6%, with Peroni volumes in line with the market. Both key brands, Peroni and Nastro Azzurro, performed satisfactorily, with Peroni retaining its position as the market’s leading brand. The Miller Genuine Draft brand was introduced in November 2003 and is now produced in the Padova brewery. The integration process within Peroni remains on plan although the company’s profitability for the period was impacted by integration costs and significant marketing and promotional investment behind our brands, together with the first beer excise increase for 13 years.
In Russia, our business, which is clearly focused in the premium segment, had a very strong year with volumes up 70% and continuing growth in segment share. Miller Genuine Draft grew by 90% and our Czech brand, Kozel, more than doubled volume. We are continuing to expand our market coverage and our presence in the on-premise channel, and this contributed to strong growth in EBITA and cash flow. A further expansion is being planned at the Kaluga plant.
Our business in Hungary enjoyed 6% volume growth against a market growth of 4% and we retained our market leadership in value share. The premium Dreher brand volume grew by 3%, and together with initiatives to improve margin this led to strong profit growth. In Romania, the market expanded by approximately 15% with our volume growth being in line. However, our share of value increased and margins improved, while the broader market growth was driven by lower-priced volumes in PET packages. In May 2004, SABMiller announced its agreement to acquire 81.1% of Aurora SA. This will consolidate our position as number two in the country and will add a strong new sales platform in the central region.
Our volume in Slovakia grew by 6%, while the market was held back by a significant increase in excise. The business moved to direct distribution during the year and this change should improve market penetration and profitability in the medium term. The Canary Islands enjoyed renewed growth, influenced by the hot summer and an increase in immigration, with our beer volumes increasing by 6%. We closed the Pinalito water business at an exceptional cost of some US$6 million.
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