SABMiller, the brewing giant, yesterday reported a 16% rise in group pre-tax profits to $3.26bn (£1.67bn) for the six months to 31 March, driven by higher beer sales in eastern Europe and the US. The group recorded a strong European performance, with a 30% increase in Ebita to $952m as a result of high volume growth in Poland, Rumania and Russia. The results arrived on the same day M&C Report told how a recent purchase of a Ukranian brewery had been called a “must do deal”. In the UK, the company’s Peroni Nastro Azzuro was the fastest growing major premium beer brand, with a 39% rise in sales. The company said the strong results had been achieved despite rising input costs and challenging comparisons with the prior year. Graham Mackay, the group’s chief executive, said that input costs had increased 6% for the year to the end of March, with raw materials including barley and malt rising by around 9%. He added that the company had managed to offset the increases by pushing through price increases on finished goods, but warned that for the current year the group expected cost increases to be a few percentage points higher. Mackay, however said that he believed that were would be a softening in barley prices this year. SABMiller recorded an 11% increase in group lager volumes to 239m hectolitres, with Ebita up 27% in the US to $477m, up 6% in Latin America to $1.07bn and up 16% in Africa and Asia to $568m. Meyer Kahn, chairman of SABMiller, said: “This strong outturn to the year is particularly pleasing given the scale of the challenge we faced at its outset, with exceptional prior year comparatives, rising input costs and an increasingly competitive environment in many of our markets. “It is a clear testament to the strength of our brands and the group's operational capability that we have been able to deliver such a good performance.” The company, which acquired the Dutch brewer Grolsch, yesterday announced that Anheuser Busch, its US rival, had agreed to hand over the US importation rights for the Grolsch brand for an undisclosed sum.