Already reeling from lawsuits that accused it of watering down the king of beers, Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer, delivered some more bad news: Profit is down, and sales in the United States are weak.
The brewer said Wednesday that profit fell 4.9% in the fourth quarter, and it forecast weak first-quarter sales volumes in the United States and Brazil. The company managed to offset a dip in sales volumes in the fourth quarter by hiking prices, leading to an 8.8% rise in revenue.
For the first time ever, more Budweiser was sold outside the United States than within the country in 2012, with strong growth in China, the brand’s second-biggest market.
“The brand still faces challenges in the U.S., but we remain committed to stabilizing its share,” said Carlos Alves de Brito, the company’s chief executive officer.
The maker of Budweiser, Bud Light, Stella Artois and Beck's said net profit was $1.76 billion in the fourth quarter of 2012, down from $1.85 billion in the same period a year ago.
Over the whole of 2012, it said sales volumes had grown in the U.S., its most profitable market, for the first time since 2008 and “market share is showing signs of stabilizing,” the Associated Press reported.
However, it expects weak first-quarter volumes in the U.S. as consumers there have less disposable income and the weather has been bad. It also expects soft first-quarter results in Brazil, due to an early carnival and wet weather.
Sales volumes in China grew 1.9%, and Anheuser Busch said it gained market share in the fourth quarter, with Budweiser becoming the best-selling “premium” beer in the country. The company expects better growth in China this year.
The company’s shares were up $1.46, or 1.6%, at $93.26 in afternoon trading.
Beer drinkers in three U.S. states filed lawsuits in the last week, accusing Anheuser-Busch of watering down and mislabeling Budweiser, Michelob and other brands to cut costs. The company denied the allegations.
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