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Coors profit rises on price hikes

 Adolph Coors Co. , the No. 3 U.S. brewer, said on Thursday that quarterly profit jumped nearly 80 percent as price hikes for the company's beers outstripped sluggish volume growth.
/ Source: Reuters

Adolph Coors Co., the No. 3 U.S. brewer, said on Thursday that quarterly profit jumped nearly 80 percent as price hikes for the company's beers outstripped sluggish volume growth.

Coors, the maker of beers such as Coors Light, Killian's and Keystone, also managed to slash some interest costs and marketing expenses to offset the 1.7 percent volume drop in the quarter.

Shares of Coors rose nearly 6 percent following the release of the earnings, which surpassed Wall Street estimates by a wide margin.

The company reported fourth-quarter profit of $36.1 million, or 98 cents a share. A year ago Coors said fourth-quarter profit was $20.2 million, or 55 cents a share.

The fourth quarter of 2002 included a $4.5 million pretax charge related to restructuring in the Americas division.

Analysts were expecting the company to earn between 56 cents a share and 71 cents a share, with a mean estimate of 67 cents a share, according to Reuters Research, a unit of Reuters Group Plc.

The company's fourth-quarter gross sales rose to $1.40 billion from $1.33 billion. Net sales, which include the effect of excise taxes, rose to $1.02 billion from $981.1 million.

Sales volume in the company's Americas division fell 1.4 percent during the quarter. Disruptions in the company's supply chain added $8 million to the unit's costs.

"Our U.S. business suffered from weak industry demand, increased popularity of 'low-carbohydrate' beers, and product supply disruptions resulting from implementation of our new supply chain systems and processes late in the year," Coors Brewing Company Chief Executive Leo Kiely said in a statement.

The beer industry is facing a difficult growth environment because of factors such as the rise of low-carbohydrate dieting and the increasing popularity of distilled spirits.

Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc., the world's largest brewer, has countered the diet fad with its low-carb Michelob Ultra beer. Coors is planning on introducing its own low-carb offering, Aspen Edge, in March.