Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, the world's largest brewer, said Thursday that the football World Cup helped push up sales in the second quarter, boosting net profit by 7.5 percent to $1.15 billion.
The producer of Budweiser, Stella Artois and Beck's said results this year beat its own expectations and those of market analysts and will continue to grow through 2010.
Revenue rose 4.1 percent to $9.2 billion in the second quarter. The Belgium-based company said it sold 2 percent more beer, while soft drinks rose 5.5 percent. Good weather "helped drive volume growth, except in Asia," and the company's sponsorship of the World Cup this summer, and its heavy marketing of flagship brand Budweiser, helped performance.
The company, along with other major brewers such as Molson Coors Brewing Co., has struggled with the weak economy around the world because people have cut back on drinking and trips out to bars.
But the World Cup gave a lift to sales and helped it grow its Budweiser brand. Belgium-based InBev bought Budweiser-maker Anheuser-Busch in 2008 with the goal of making the beer a global brand.
Molson Coors said earlier this month it too was helped by World Cup fans wanting to drink more around the world, especially in Britain. Last week sportswear maker Adidas AG, an official sponsor, said the World Cup helped push up its second-quarter revenue and profit, and it raised its full-year forecast. Nike Inc., the world's largest athletic shoe and clothing maker, also benefited from the tournament, even though it's not an official sponsor.
Shares trading in the U.S. rose $2.02, or 4 percent, to $52.87 in midday trading Thursday.
AB InBev markets more than 200 beer brands worldwide, including Brahma in Brazil, Jupiler in Belgium and the Netherlands, Quilmes in Argentina, Harbin in China and Budweiser in the U.S.
The company said the World Cup was a boon for Budweiser, its most recognizable brand but one that has been steadily losing market share over the last 20 years.
"Thanks to Budweiser's 2010 FIFA World Cup sponsorship (the brand's) volumes were essentially flat in the first half of 2010," said Anheuser-Busch InBev.
"We are quite pleased by that performance. The brand had been declining for a long period of time," said Felipe Dutra, the chief financial officer, in a telephone news conference.
The company expects profits to keep rising for the rest of the year, helped by a rebound in sales from last year, when key markets worldwide were hit by recession.
AB InBev's production has been a mixed bag. While U.S. volumes have dropped by almost 5 percent in the first half — and by more than 7 percent in Canada — they rose sharply in Latin America, Western Europe and Asia. Volumes have also dropped in Russia and other East European markets.
AB InBev said it will continue to pay special attention to Budweiser, and its teams are working on plans to launch it around the world and stabilize sales in the U.S. It launched the brand in Russia in May and said that early results show the brand has potential to make gains in the world's fourth-largest beer market. Earlier this summer, Molson Coors launched its flagships Coors Light in Russia.
Hoping to build on the impact on Budweiser of its World Cup sponsorship, Bud Light will become the official and exclusive beer sponsor of the National Football League, beginning with the 2011 season.
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