AB InBev below expectations on lower U.S. retailer sales

BRUSSELS Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:52am EDT

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI.BR), the world's largest brewer, reported third-quarter profits below analysts' estimates on Wednesday as sales to United States retailers declined in the quarter.

Core profit in the third quarter rose 10.6 percent on a like-for-like basis to $3.977 billion, below the $4.075 billion consensus forecast in a Reuters poll of nine analysts.

The maker of Budweiser, Stella Artois and Beck's said that beer sales to U.S. retailers fell 0.4 percent in the quarter, led by a 7 percent decline in Budweiser sales.

It said that in North America, its largest market, the introduction of higher-priced brands such as Bud Light Platinum and Bud Light Lime-A-Rita, resulted in market share gains for its Bud Light products.

In its second-largest market Brazil, the group said it lost some market share from a year earlier because of price increases.

Overall, the brewer kept its guidance for revenue per hectoliter to increase ahead of inflation on a constant geographical basis.

It said it now expected a high-single digit increase in revenues per hectoliter in Brazil, a change from its previous guidance that saw revenues per hectoliter increasing in line with inflation.

Profits in Western Europe increase 9.7 percent on a like-for-like basis even as volumes declined, as the group gained market share in Germany with its Hasseroeder and Beck's brands.

Dutch peer Heineken (HEIN.AS), which reported its quarterly earnings last week, said volumes in Western Europe declined, caused by a challenging economic environment in Portugal and cautious spending elsewhere.

SABMiller, said earlier in October that it managed to grow volumes in Europe in the six months to the end of September, buoyed by price reductions and growth of lower priced beers.

AB-InBev's shares have risen by about 40 percent this year, more than twice as fast as the STOXX 600 European food and beverage index .SX3P.

(Reporting By Robert-Jan Bartunek)

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