* Q1 core profit $3.43 bln vs Reuters poll $3.58 bln
* Volumes down 4.1 pct, in Brazil by 8.2 pct
* Now sees flat to weaker full-year Brazil volumes
* Shares down 3 pct, among weakest of European blue chips
(Adds financial director, analyst comments, shares)
By Philip Blenkinsop
BRUSSELS, April 30 Anheuser-Busch InBev
, the world's largest brewer, cut its sales forecast for
Brazil, its second-biggest market, in part because rising food
prices are reducing the amount of money that consumers there
have to spend on beer.
Shares in the maker of Budweiser, Stella and Beck's fell
around 3 percent on Tuesday after it missed first-quarter profit
forecasts and said Brazilian sales volumes were likely to be
flat or down by a low-single-digit percentage this year. It had
previously forecast low-to-mid single digit growth in Brazil.
The world's top brewers are relying on emerging markets for
growth amid a prolonged squeeze on consumer incomes in
austerity-hit Europe and limited U.S. expansion. But bad weather
and tax-led price hikes have posed challenges recently.
Heineken, the world's third-largest brewer, last
week reported lower beer sales in all regions except Asia and
cut its expectations for growth this year.
AB InBev said it sold 4.1 percent less beer and other drinks
in the first three months compared with last year on a
like-for-like basis. It also reported declines in every region
except Asia, where China was exceptionally strong.
Core profit (EBITDA) rose 0.9 percent to $3.43 billion, but
was below even the lowest forecast in a Reuters poll of 12
brokers, for which the average expectation was $3.58 billion.
AB InBev, which has a two-thirds share of the Brazilian beer
market, said consumers there drank 8.2 percent less beer than a
year ago due to the earlier timing of the Carnival, poor weather
and high food inflation. It also lost market share.
"Brazil has been a great banker for years. It wobbled a bit
last year. Now, it's taken a further leg down," said Andrew
Holland, beverage analyst at Societe Generale.
AB InBev shares were down 2.7 percent to 71.13 euros at 0845
GMT, among the weakest in the FTSEurofirst 300 index of
leading European stocks.
They have slipped from an all-time high of 79.60 euros
earlier this month. That peak was inspired by the expected
conclusion of AB InBev's deal to buy the whole of Grupo Modelo
, the top brewer in Mexico, the world's fourth
largest beer market in terms of profit generated.
AB InBev Chief Financial Officer Felipe Dutra said the early
Carnival in Brazil, which shortened the summer drinking season,
and wet weather had been known. However, March proved
particularly weak, with industry volumes down by a percentage in
the high teens.
"We had continued weak weather into March ... but we also
saw a peak in food inflation which impacts real disposable
income," Dutra said, adding that economists expected an easing
of food inflation through the year.
Brazilian inflation accelerated in March to 6.59 percent,
breaching the official target ceiling of 6.5 percent for the
first time since November 2011.
For beer makers in Brazil, April was better albeit still
declining by a mid-single-digit percentage, Dutra said.
In the United States, where AB InBev has about half of the
market, tax and petrol price rises and a harsher winter than in
2012 resulted in a 4.1 percent decline in sales to retailers and
a squeeze of margins.
AB InBev, like rivals, has hiked prices and cut costs in
mature markets, while buying into the higher growth of emerging
countries, such as Mexico, where its purchase of the rest of
Corona maker Modelo is due to close in June.
(Editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek and Mark Potter)