SABMiller eyes $2.5 bln in Africa investment

Mon Apr 16, 2012 5:25pm GMT

By Tiisetso Motsoeneng and Tebogo Mahlaela

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - SABMiller plans to invest up to $2.5 billion in Africa over the next five years to build and revamp breweries, its head for the region said on Monday, as it looks to slake rising demand for beer in the fast-growing continent.

"We are still looking at around 400 to 500 million dollars a year ... for the next three to five years," Mark Bowman, SABMiller's managing director for Africa told the Reuters Africa Investment Summit.

"There's quite an attractive growth in markets outside South Africa so we will be investing basically to meet and be ahead of demand," he said in an interview at Reuters offices in Johannesburg.

SABMiller's Africa business, which excludes South Africa, is the group's biggest recipient of capital expenditure and its fastest growing, with underlying volumes in the last three months of 2011 up 11 percent.

Bowman said the London-based brewer, which is also listed in Johannesburg, will use the money to build two to three breweries each year across the continent, where some breweries are running at or near full capacity.

Africa is home to a billion people and, after a decade of relative political stability, dozens of fast-growing economies. Although still poor, it is increasingly seen as the next big growth market for consumer goods.

But average beer consumption, at 8 litres per person per year, pales when compared with about 70 in North America or Europe, suggesting that few Africans can afford the beverage, which is seen as a status symbol.

Bowman said if one includes the home brew market -- where the beverage is cheaper -- beer consumption on the continent is just as big as in other developed markets.   Continued...

Bottles of beer move along a production line at the South African Brewery in Alrode April 2, 2009.  REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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