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World Cup boosts beer giant InBev profits

The world’s biggest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev, said Thursday the 2014 football World Cup in Brazil was its best ever, boosting sales and profits for the whole year.

The Belgian-Brazilian giant was a major sponsor of the tournament, putting some of its top brands such as its iconic Budweiser beer on show for a global audience.

For the full year, AB InBev’s net profit rose 11.7 percent from 2013 to $8.86 billion as sales increased 5.9 percent to $47.1 billion, the company said in a statement.

“The Brazil World Cup turned out to be our best yet,” it said, with Budweiser the official beer of the competition seeing annual sales rise 5.9 percent while Corona added 5.8 percent.

Progress in Brazil helped offset a flat performance in the United States, its other key market where Budweiser beer did not do so well, a problem it plans to tackle this year, the company said.

China stood out, with earnings before tax and depreciation jumping 29 percent but the country — one of the world’s largest beer markets — remains a relatively small part of the InBev business with sales of just over $700 million.

InBev said it was returning cash to shareholders via a stock buy-back this year worth $1.0 billion.

AB InBev was formed in 2008 by the merger of Belgian-Brazilian group InBev and US brewing giant Anheuser-Busch.