Australia. Foster’s believes the sales will flow

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FOSTER’S chief John Pollaers has hit back at claims the company is losing beer market share and playing into the hands of takeover predator SABMiller.

Industry scan track figures by Nielsen show that, in the first three weeks of August, Foster’s sales dropped to 44.6 per cent of the packaged beer market by volume, a loss of 1.9 per cent. Arch-rival Lion Nathan increased 2.5 per cent to 43.6 per cent.

Mr Pollaers insisted that the figures did not conflict with his assurances to shareholders that Foster’s had a “key win” in stabilising the long-term decline in its market share.

He indicated yesterday a loss in market share in the short-term was predictable because the brewer had refused to heavily discount its products to compete.

But he stuck to his view that such discounting would prove unsustainable and that Foster’s would regain its premium position in the longer term.

“We’ve said before that we’re not prepared to lose market share without making a deliberate decision to do so and fully understanding the consequences,” Mr Pollaers said.

The Takeovers Panel has already been forced to adjudicate in the bitter $9.5 billion takeover battle after SABMiller claimed Foster’s results were misleading and deceptive. It decided the claims were not worth investigating.

SABMiller has refused to budge from its offer of $4.77 a share. Foster’s share price closed yesterday down 3c at $4.88