Budweiser brewer earnings fall on taxes, financing

AP News
Posted: Jul 31, 2013 11:28 AM

AMSTERDAM (AP) — Shares in Budweiser maker Anheuser-Busch InBev SA rose strongly Wednesday after the company reported second-quarter earnings down from a year ago but still better than expected. .

The world's largest brewer said net profit during the period was $1.50 billion (1.13 billion euros), or $0.93 per share. That was down from $1.94 billion, or $1.21 per share in the same period a year ago. The fall came despite a 1.9 percent increase in revenues to $10.6 billion, on a mix of higher prices and lower volumes.

The Leuven, Belgium-based company noted that the volume decline — 1.2 percent from a year ago —was less severe than in the first quarter, when its Brazilian operations performed poorly.

"Brazilian volumes were broadly flat: in-line with our expectations but well ahead of consensus," said Trevor Stirling, an analyst for Sanford C. Bernstein, in a note on the earnings. The "US wasn't as bad as feared," he said.

The figures were a bit of a surprise following lackluster earnings by rival SABMiller last week. AB InBev's share price rose 6.9 percent to 72.39 euros in trading on the Euronext exchange, one of the strongest rises among major European shares.

The results were the first released by the company since its $20.1 billion acquisition of Corona brewer Grupo Modelo closed in June. Brands owned by InBev make up nearly 50 percent of the U.S. beer market, and regulators forced it to sell Modelo's U.S. business to Constellation Brands Inc., including the rights to Corona there, in order to win approval for the deal.

InBev also brews Stella Artois and Beck's, among others.

Tuesday's results were published on a pro-forma basis — as if it had owned Modelo in both years. It also stripped out the impact of a one-time $6.31 billion gain due to a revaluation of the value of shares it held in Modelo before the acquisition.

InBev said net debt at the end of the quarter was $43.1 billion, up from $30.1 billion at the end of 2012, mostly due to financing the Modelo buy. The company said it expects to pay down debt relative to operating profit by roughly a third by the end of 2014.

In the United States, volumes were down 2.8 percent but prices were 3.9 percent higher, as the company carried out a series of price hikes in the fourth quarter of 2012. Its single best-selling beer, Bud Light, lost ground, but other Bud Light-linked drinks such as "Bud Light Lime Straw-Ber-Rita" and "Bud Light Lime Lime-A-Rita" sold well.

Similarly, Budweiser itself lost a fractional amount of market share, largely offset by gains at Budweiser Black Crown.

In Brazil, the company's second-largest market, where it controls nearly two-thirds of the market, sales volumes were down 0.4 percent, which InBev said was a "good improvement after a challenging first quarter."

The company said positive factors in Brazil include slowing general price inflation, the success of its advertising programs, and a boost from the FIFA Confederations Cup soccer tournament in June.

"We expect pressure on consumer disposable income in Brazil to continue for the remainder of the year," InBev Chief Executive Carlos Brito said.

The company did not make a profit forecast for 2013 as a whole but said it expected the trend of lower volumes and higher prices to continue. It raised its estimates for capital spending in 2013 to $3.9 billion from $3.7 billion, as it expands capacity in China, Brazil and Mexico.

Analyst Stirling of Bernstein praised the company for "balanced exposure to faster-growth emerging markets, continued potential for margin expansion in mature markets, and an exceptionally high return on capital," but said the shares' current value already reflects that and he expects them to perform in line with the market.