MillerCoors, the second-largest brewer in the United States, on Tuesday reported a 21.6 percent slide in fourth-quarter net income reflecting a tough economy and a sharp rise in share-based salary bonus packages.

The combined U.S. operations of SABMiller Plc and Molson Coors Brewing Co with brands such as Miller Lite and Coors Light, said underlying net income in the October-December quarter was $106.1 million with net sales dipping 1.6 percent to $1.71 billion.

It's tough out there, and we saw the effect of ongoing economic pressure and unemployment on beer sales, especially in the fourth quarter, said MillerCoors CEO Leo Kiely in a results statement.

The brewer said marketing and administration costs fell by 2.7 percent in the quarter and would have been around 6 percent when excluding the significant impact of increased share-based salary bonus schemes which were driven by a strong SABMiller stock price over 2009.

The company, formed in July 2008, has said it expects to make $750 million of cost savings over the first 4-1/2 years of its merger to end-2012. At the end of 2009, cumulative cost savings had reached $272 million.

The brewer has a U.S. beer market share of nearly 30 percent behind Budweiser-brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev share of around 50 percent.

Molson Coors, with operations in the U.S., Canada and Britain, is due to report later on Tuesday.

(Reporting by David Jones)