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November 13, 2009

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Merged AB InBev tackles flat demand

THE world's largest brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev SA said yesterday it made a US$1.546 billion profit in the third quarter but that revenue fell 10 percent from last year, when the company was created in a merger, as beer sales shrank during the period.

The maker of Budweiser, Stella Artois and Beck's did not give a figure for year-ago profit, saying it could not compare numbers from Anheuser Busch and InBev before they combined. In the July-September 2008 period InBev made US$690 million and AB US$666.1 million.

The combined company sold 3.1 percent less beer in the three months ended September 30, hit by weak worldwide markets as the economic downturn held back spending. Revenue amounted to US$9.76 billion, down from US$10.89 billion before the merger.

AB InBev CEO Carlos Brito said it was now "a much stronger company" after tackling debt with the US$9.4 billion sell-off of American theme parks and a central European unit, outpacing a goal to make US$7 billion from divestments.

Paying off debt is still a priority, the company said, warning that it is still "selectively evaluating noncore assets" that could be sold off.

But it said it was no longer actively seeking to offload units and would "now focus all our efforts on growing our core business." Brito said this included new synergies not included in the US$2.25 billion it plans to save from combining AB and InBev.


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