InBev slumps in US, Europe but shines in Brazil, China

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Brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev reported a fall in quarterly net profit on Wednesday, saying that a sales slump in Europe and the United States had outweighed sparkling results in Brazil and China.

The Belgian-Brazilian company, the maker of brands such as Budweiser, Leffe and Stella Artois, expressed optimism for the last three months of the year after a drop in sales in Europe and North America.

AB InBev reported a net profit of 1.4 billion dollars (one billion euros) between July and September, a 7.2-percent drop compared to the same period last year.

The volume of beer brewed in the third quarter surged by 12.5 percent in Brazil, 8.1 percent in China and 8.0 percent in Russia.

"In contrast, North America and Western Europe remained challenging, with volumes declining in the low single digits," the company said in a statement.

Sales to retailers in the United States fell by 4.0 percent owing to persistently high unemployment, which is "increasing the economic pressure on many consumers," it said.

The brewer, however, said it was "encouraged by better mix trends in the United States" as its Bud Light brand gained a share in the marketplace as consumers went back to premium brands.

AB InBev launched initiatives to support its flagship brand in the United States, Budweiser, and intends to launch it in Brazil next year.

"Overall, we expect international Budweiser's growth to drive both market share gains and improved mix, given its above core positioning," the company said.

The third-quarter results were in line with forecasts by analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires.

The brewer's sales fell by 4.5 percent to 9.3 billion dollars in the quarter while its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) fell 0.45 percent to 3.5 billion dollars.

The company produced 106.7 million hectolitres of beer worldwide in the third quarter. It was a 0.4 percent drop from the same period last year.

AB InBev said that the third-quarter results were partly affected by the sale of assets undertaken to refinance the 52-billion-dollar takeover of US brewer Anheuser-Busch by Belgian-Brazilian rival InBev in November 2008.

Excluding those operations, company sales grew 5.4 percent in the third quarter while EBITDA was up 9.1 percent.

The company said it expected "EBITDA growth to be materially higher" in the fourth quarter thanks to "easier comparisons in sales and marketing expenses" after incurring more expenses in 2009.

© 2010 AFP

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