Lion roars in tough conditions

AUSTRALIA'S biggest brewer, Lion, has increased its revenue and market share despite a tough trading environment.

Its leadership over rival Foster's, now owned by SABMiller, widened towards the end of the financial year. According to Nielsen, Lion increased its volume market share to 47.5 per cent from 47 per cent between March and June. Foster's share fell from 45.6 per cent to 44.3 per cent.

That gap could widen in coming months as the effects of Lion winning the distribution of Mexican beer Corona from Foster's begin to flow. Lion has also attracted a string of other international beers to its stable.

Lion, which is owned by Japanese conglomerate Kirin, yesterday released first-half results showing a mixed performance by its collection of beer and dairy beverage products.

The beer, spirits and wine divisions in Australia and New Zealand lifted revenue by 1.7 per cent to $1.197 billion and delivered operating earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) of $337.3 million, an increase of 9.2 per cent.

Lion's alcohol operations in Australia saw volumes increase by 3.4 per cent, leading to a 4 per cent increase in revenue to $929.1 million.

Chief executive Rob Murray said despite the declining beer market, Lion's Australian beer business delivered a standout performance.

The company is also set to benefit from its recent move to acquire all the remaining shares in its partly owned Little World Beverages company, a West Australian brewer that makes the Little Creatures range.

''The outlook for our Australian beer business is positive, with a number of international brand owners choosing to partner with Lion in this market,'' Mr Murray said.

Lion's dairy and drinks division saw revenue decline by 8.9 per cent to $1.316 billion and delivered EBIT of $49.8 million, a decrease of 27.1 per cent.

The story Lion roars in tough conditions first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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