MillerCoors Q4 up on price rises and savings

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MillerCoors, the second-largest brewer in the United States, posted a 32.5 percent jump in fourth-quarter net income as price rises and cost savings offset soft industry beer volumes.

The combined U.S. operations of SABMiller Plc (SAB.L) and Molson Coors Brewing Co (TAP.N), with brands such as Miller Lite and Coors Light, said on Thursday underlying net income in the October-December quarter was $194 million, with net sales up 2 percent at $1.75 billion.

“By raising the bar on execution, increasing net revenue per barrel and over-delivering on our synergy and cost savings goal, we grew underlying profit in a tough year,” said MillerCoors Chief Executive Tom Long in a results statement.

He added that in 2011 the group grew Coors Light to be the nation’s second biggest beer brand, surpassing Budweiser for the first time ever and now second only to Bud Light.

The company, formed in July 2008, said cumulative cost savings from bringing Miller and Coors together had reached $765 million as it topped its $750 million cost savings target at the end of 2011, one year ahead of originally planned.

The brewer has a U.S. beer market share of nearly 30 percent behind Budweiser-brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev’s (ABI.BR) share of almost 50 percent. Molson Coors, with its main operations in the U.S., Canada and Britain, is due to report later on Thursday.

Last month, SABMiller reported a 3 percent rise in its October-December quarter global underlying beer volumes, while in the United States sales to retailers at MillerCoors fell 3.3 percent.

SABMiller shares were 1.4 percent off at 2,528 pence in London by 1220 GMT.

SABMiller, the world’s No 2 brewer behind AB InBev, has been busy deal-making recently, buying Australian brewer Foster’s in December for $11.9 billion, planning to swap its Russian and Ukrainian units for 24 percent of Turkey’s Anadolu Efes (AEFES.IS), and in January saying it would be keen to buy Castel’s African brewing business in a potential $10 billion deal after forging closer ties with the private French group.