Britain-based brewer SABMiller on Thursday toasted rising annual profits, as emerging markets growth offset weakness in Europe, and launched a new cost-cutting drive. Investors cheered the upbeat news on the London stock market, sending SABMiller shares soaring to the top of the FTSE 100 index. Profit after tax rose four percent to $3.381 billion (2.474 billion euros) in the year to March 31 compared with the group's 2012/13 financial year, SABMiller said in a results statement. Pre-tax earnings gained three percent to $4.823 billion but revenues nudged four percent lower to $22.31 billion, added the maker of the Grolsch, Peroni and Miller Lite brands. Lager volumes rose 1.0 percent as growth in Latin America, Africa and Asia Pacific compensated for declines in Europe and North America. SABMiller added that it has begun a new efficiency programme that will deliver savings of about $500 million per year by March 2018. The group also hiked its shareholder dividend by 4.0 percent to 105 US cents per share. "Trading conditions are expected to remain broadly unchanged from the year just ended, with growth continuing to be driven by our developing markets," SABMiller said. The company, which is listed in London and Johannesburg, also produces Foster's and Pilsner Urquell lagers. "We have produced a resilient performance in the face of a number of headwinds," said chief executive Alan Clark. He added: "As we look ahead, we will continue to innovate and rejuvenate our products, build on our position in growth markets, and increase the efficiency of our operations. "With this approach I believe we are well placed to continue to deliver strong returns to shareholders." While for 2013/14, underlying pre-tax profits rose four percent at its Latin America business, they fell 10 percent for its European operations. The group added that earnings would continue to be hit by dollar exchange rates. SABMiller said that depreciation of currencies against the dollar impacted its underlying pre-tax profits by about $400 million in 2013/14. In late afternoon deals, the group's share price jumped 3.30 percent to 3,367 pence on the FTSE, which added 0.05 percent to 6,824.18 points.