AB InBev price hikes outweigh lower volumes in Q1

By @ibtimes on

Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest brewer, increased revenue and profit in the first quarter as price hikes more than offset lower volumes caused by U.S. unemployment and flooding in Brazil.

The company, whose key international brands are Budweiser, Stella Artois and Beck's, said on Wednesday high unemployment among young males in the United States reduced volumes while heavy rain in Brazil kept growth to a minimum.

However, beer revenues in its two largest markets rose because of price increases.

Overall group shipments fell 0.4 percent on a like-for-like basis, but revenues rose 5.6 percent to $9.0 billion and core profit (EBITDA) by 6.5 percent to $3.41 billion. Both were in line with forecasts in a Reuters poll.

Volumes increased in other regions, most markedly in eastern Europe which rebounded from a very weak first quarter in 2010 when beer tax in Russia tripled.

AB InBev repeated that the cost of sales per hectoliter should increase by a low single-digit percentage this year as its hedging mitigated the impact of global commodity costs.

The futures price for malt barley is more than 50 percent higher than a year ago.

The company said revenue per hectoliter should grow by more than inflation. It also said sales and marketing investments would be a mid to high single-digit percentage higher in 2011 than in 2010.

We continue to believe that a recovery in the U.S. economy is a question of when and not if. In the meantime, we will remain focused on building the health of our brands and driving forward with all our major initiatives, AB InBev said.

World number three Heineken last month reported increased beer sales in all regions in the first three months of 2011, its first annual volume increase since the end of 2008.

SABMiller, the second-largest brewer, also beat forecasts with a 3 percent rise in volume, led by emerging markets in Africa and Asia.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Dan Lalor)

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