AB InBev sets first profit growth target under new chief

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The logo of Anheuser-Busch InBev is pictured outside the brewer’s headquarters in Leuven, Belgium February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo GLOBAL BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD/File Photo

By Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -Anheuser-Busch InBev’s new leadership set the company’s first earnings target on Monday, forecasting 4% to 8% growth in core profit over the next four years based on rising beer sales and expansion in other drinks and even food.

Michel Doukeris, who has been chief executive of the world’s largest brewer since July 1, told Reuters before an investor seminar on Monday that the beer market had expanded over the past four years, despite a false narrative that it was not growing.

Beer was also forecast by Euromonitor to expand its share of the alcohol market in the next four at the expense of wine and spirits, he said.

AB InBev, which sells one in four beers sold globally, should benefit from that growth and accelerate it by pushing higher-priced ‘premium’ beers, Doukeris said, promoting non-beer products such as seltzers and canned wines and cocktails, and selling more online.

The group will also look closer at by-products of barley brewing such as proteins and fibres, which were now sold “almost for free”, but could be incorporated into plant-based food.

Doukeris, AB InBev’s former head of sales and of its North American business, replaced fellow Brazilian Carlos Brito, who built the brewer into the world’s largest during 15 years at the helm.

Brito steered growth through acquisitions and cost savings. His successor is focusing more on boosting sales of over 500 brands, including seven of the world’s top 10 beers, in an already concentrated market.

In the 10-year period from 2010 to 2019, AB InBev’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose by an average 7.3%, then fell 2.4% in pandemic-hit 2020. The Belgium-based company is forecasting 10%-12% expansion this year.

Its target for “organic” EBITDA growth removes the impact of currency changes when converting earnings from foreign operations, and of acquisitions and divestments.

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