(Reuters) - SABMiller Plc (>> SABMiller plc), brewer of Miller Lite, Peroni and Grolsch, sold more lager in the fourth quarter as demand rose in many emerging markets ahead of the Easter holiday and sales in China recovered from an inclement summer.
Shares of SABMiller, the world's second-largest brewer by sales, rose as much as 2.8 percent on Thursday to rank among the top gainers on London's FTSE-100 index <.FTSE>.
Brewers have turned their focus to developing countries as sales in Europe and the United States lose their fizz. SABMiller has greater exposure to emerging markets than its closest peers, Anheuser-Busch InBev SA (>> ANHEUSER-BUSCH INBEV) and Heineken NV (>> HEINEKEN).
The company, founded as South African Breweries in 1895, said the volume of lager that it sold worldwide rose 2 percent in the quarter ended March 31.
South Africa, where it has an approximately 90 percent share of the beer market, was responsible for a large part of that growth. The company introduced modest price increases on some bulk and convenience packs during the financial year.
Quarterly lager sales in South Africa were also helped by stocking up ahead of Easter, which this year fell on April 5, just a few days after the reporting period ended.
Numis Securities analyst Wyn Ellis said the results beat expectations. "Part of that was due to an Easter impact, which brought things forward certainly in Africa and parts of Europe," he said.
The same was also true in Peru and Ecuador, drivers of a 3 percent increase in lager volumes recorded in Latin America during the fourth quarter. The region was the company's largest revenue generator in 2014.
In the Asia-Pacific region, which accounts for about 15 percent of total revenue, SABMiller said quarterly revenue rose 7 percent.
Lager volumes in China returned to growth in the fourth quarter, having earlier suffered from adverse weather in the peak summer months.
Domestic sales to retailers fell 2.3 percent for the full year in the United States, where SABMiller has a joint venture with Molson Coors Brewing Co (>> Molson Coors Brewing Company).
SABMiller reported overall organic revenue growth of 4 percent for the year ended March 31 on a constant currency basis.
It said, however, that depreciation in key currencies against the U.S. dollar would hurt its full-year results, which are scheduled for release in May.
SABMiller's shares were up 2.2 percent at 3664 pence at 1148 GMT.
(Additional reporting by Esha Vaish; Editing by Anupama Dwivedi and Robin Paxton)
By Aastha Agnihotri