July 23, 2008 / 3:39 PM / 9 years ago

Bud Lite Lime boosts Anheuser-Busch profits

<p>Anheuser Busch, Inc. World Headqaurters in St Louis, July 14, 2008.Peter Newcomb</p>

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Brewer Anheuser-Busch Cos Inc (BUD.N), which has agreed to be acquired by Belgian rival InBev NV INTB.BR, reported higher quarterly profit on Wednesday, helped by price increases and the launch of Bud Light Lime.

The maker of Budweiser and Michelob said second-quarter profit rose nearly 2 percent to $689 million, or 95 cents a share, from $677 million, or 88 cents a share, a year ago.

Quarterly net sales rose 4.6 percent to $4.72 billion, as the company sold 43.1 million barrels of beer.

Beer shipments to wholesalers increased 0.5 percent in the quarter. Sales from wholesalers to retailers, a better indicator of consumer demand, rose 0.4 percent.

The No. 1 U.S. brewer also raised its quarterly dividend 12 percent to 37 cents per share. It is payable September 9 to shareholders of record on August 11.

Pending antitrust approval, the takeover is expected to be completed at the end of the year.

Earlier this month, Anheuser accepted a sweetened $52 billion takeover bid from InBev. The deal will create the world's largest beer maker and end roughly 150 years of independence for St. Louis-based Anheuser.

The combined Anheuser-InBev would have annual net sales of $36.4 billion and brew a quarter of the world's beer.

Anheuser controls nearly half the U.S. market, due to years of keen focus on it. But that concentration has become problematic, as consumer tastes have been shifting away from domestic beer toward spirits, wine or imported beers.

Analysts have also said U.S.-centric strategy made Anheuser vulnerable to a takeover, since it failed to keep up with rivals that gained power through international acquisitions.

In the latest quarter, U.S. beer segment sales rose 4.5 percent, due to a 0.5 percent increase in volume and a 3.2 percent increase in revenue per barrel resulting from price increases and selling more higher-priced beers.

The company said it plans to raise prices again on most of its domestic portfolio this Fall.

The company said income from its equity stakes, which include half of Mexico's Grupo Modelo GMODELOC.MX and 27 percent of China's Tsingtao Brewery Co Ltd (600600.SS), fell $28 million in the latest quarter. The company blamed higher materials and operating costs at Modelo, maker of Corona, which could not be offset by higher prices and volume growth.

Anheuser shares were up 6 cents at $67.31 in midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Reporting by Martinne Geller; editing by John Wallace, Dave Zimmerman

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