Fueled both by high-end and core brand growth

Miller Brewing Co.'s sales to retailers increased in the third quarter, fueled by continued growth in sales of the core brand Miller Lite.

SABMiller plc, the London-based parent company of Milwaukee-based Miller, said last week that Miller's sales to retailers increased 1.5 percent, after adjusting for a larger number of days in the fiscal third quarter ended Dec. 31, 2007, compared with a year ago.

Miller Lite's adjusted sales were up 1.9 percent in the three-month period and up 2 percent for the year to date, SABMiller said. Sales of the company's high-end brands -- including Leinenkugel's and imports such as Peroni Nastro Azzurro -- jumped 30 percent for the quarter.

Miller increased its domestic revenue-per-barrel by 4.3 percent in the third quarter because of strong pricing, reduction in promotions and a favorable brand mix.

For the year, domestic sales to retailers increased 4.4 percent, including the Sparks and Steel Reserve brands acquired in August 2006. Without those brands, sales grew 1.4 percent.

Miller Brewing also incurred a $19 million charge for staff retention arrangements as a result of the signing of a definitive agreement to merge the U.S. and Puerto Rico operations of Miller Brewing Co. with Coors Brewing Co., of Golden, Colo. More charges are expected before the transaction is completed. The deal is not expected to close