News Column

A-B InBev's 4Q profit rises 45 percent

February 26, 2014

By Lisa Brown, St. Louis Post-Dispatch



Feb. 26--Anheuser-Busch InBev's fourth quarter profit rose 45 percent, and the world's largest brewer sees improvements in the U.S. beer market.

The Belgium-based company, whose North American headquarters is in St. Louis, also said Wednesday that it has extended a contract with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union in the U.S. another month as negotiations continue. The contract was set to end Friday.

"A-B and the Teamsters continue to work toward a new labor agreement for all 12 U.S. breweries," CEO Carlos Brito said in a call with analysts Wednesday morning. He said the company has made "significant progress" in talks, and the existing contract has been extended until March 31.

A-B InBev reported a $2.52 billion profit in the fourth quarter, up from $1.74 billion a year earlier, and sales rose 4.6 percent to $11.7 billion.

Industrywide U.S. sales to retailers fell 1.8 percent last year, and A-B InBev's sales to retailers in the U.S. fell 2.9 percent.

Its two biggest brands, Bud Light and Budweiser, lost market share in the U.S. last year, but Brito said he sees volume improvement as the economy improves. "The U.S. remains a great market for us," he said in the call. "We see an improving industry ... compared to 2013 because of the economy getting stronger."

The brewer's largest U.S. brand, Bud Light, launched a new advertising campaign this year with the tagline: "The perfect beer for whatever happens." Brito said the reception of the new campaign has been well received by consumers since it debuted in its Super Bowl advertising.

Following strong sales for Bud Light Lime Lime-A-Rita, introduced in 2012, and Straw-Ber-Rita, introduced last year, A-B InBev recently expanded the 'rita malt beverage lineup with Cran-Brrr-Rita, Mang-O-rita and Raz-Ber-ita.

"We have a pipeline of innovation that gets better every year," Brito said.

The first quarter of 2014 has been tough in the U.S. due to cold weather, executives said in the call. But the company expects to see an extra boost due to better global growth and the World Cup, especially in Brazil.

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


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