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File photo of Coors Light and Moson Canadian on sale in Denver, Colo.

Ed Andrieski/AP

Molson Coors Brewing Co. missed expectations Tuesday as its net profit plummeted by more than half to $36.5-million (U.S.) in the first quarter.

The Denver and Montreal-based brewer, which reports in U.S. dollars, said it earned 20 cents per share in the period ended March 30. That was down from 44 cents per share in the prior year.

Underlining profit was $54.6-million or 30 cents per share, down from $85.3-million or 47 cents per share in the 2012 quarter.

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Molson Coors said the decreases were largely attributable to its central European acquisition, which also helped to boost overall net sales by nearly 20 per cent to $828.5-million.

World-wide beer volume increased 20.3 per cent to 11.9 million hectolitres.

The company was expected to earn 34 cents per share in adjusted profits, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

The Canadian business underlying pretax income decreased 18.9 per cent to $37.3-million on lower beer volumes and higher spending on new brands.

Sales to retail decreased 1.4 per cent, partly due to weak Canadian markets, which were impacted by higher beer excise tax rates in Quebec last November.

Net debt was $4.14-billion, after deducting $512-million in cash and equivalents.

Molson Coors share of MillerCoors earnings decreased 1.3 per cent to $117.4-million.

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The U.S. joint venture earned $271.9-million, down 1.2 per cent, due to lower volumes and higher costs to support the launch of Redd's Apple Ale and Third Shift Amber Lager.

The European business lost $3.8-million, an $8.6-million improvement in underlying pre-tax income due to higher prices and lower costs.

Europe sales volume decreased 1 per cent due to poor weather in March across the region, along with competitive value-brand activity in Romania and Hungary.

Molson Coors employs 15,000 people at 18 breweries and operations in more than 30 countries.

It has a portfolio of more than 65 strategic and partner brands, including Coors, Coors Light, Molson Canadian, Carling, Blue Moon, Keystone and Richard's.

The Molson Coors Brewing Co. was formed in 2005 following the merger between North American family-run breweries Molson Inc. and the Adolph Coors Company.

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