AB InBev upgrades full-year earnings forecast following unexpected profit rise in Q3

BELGIUM – AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer, has upgraded its full-year earnings forecast following an impressive Q3 where it posted a surprise increase in profit buoyed by beer sales in Brazil. 

Organic revenue for the company grew 7.9% for the third quarter, also boosted by strong demand for AB InBev’s beers in Brazil and Colombia. 

In Q3, the maker of Budweiser beer recorded revenue of US$14.27 billion, compared with the year-ago quarter’s US$12.82 billion figure.  

AB InBev also posted 3.4% growth in its total volumes while revenues per hl grew 4.3%. 

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The brewer has upgraded its forecast for 2021 earnings growth, after posting an increase of 3% in third-quarter EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) on a like-for-like basis. 

AB InBev says it now expects EBITDA to grow between 10% and 12% in 2021, compared with its previous forecast of an 8-12% growth. 

Brazil was the biggest performer of the quarter, posting a revenue growth of 15.3% with beer volumes up by 35% on Q3 2019 levels and by 7.3% on the year-ago quarter. 

In Colombia, the brewer delivered top-line and EBITDA growth of more than 30%, led by “record volumes” and supported by the continued easing of pandemic-related restrictions. 

Revenue and profits were also up in South Africa, where the company saw volume growth in the mid-twenties versus the year-ago period. 

Europe also saw modest growth, partly driven by premiumization. AB InBev also notes its performance in the region improved as vaccination rates increase and on-premise sales recovered. 

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However, the company saw “cost headwinds” in the US, where revenue and EBITDA were down by 0.8% and 2.6%, respectively.  

The company also saw a decline in revenue and profits in China, where Covid-19 restrictions disproportionately impacted its key regions, as well as in Mexico. 

“During the third quarter, we delivered top-and bottom-line growth versus both 2020 and pre-pandemic levels of 2019 driven by relentless execution, investment in our brands, and accelerated digital transformation,” said AB InBev CEO, Michel Doukeris. 

“As a result of our performance and our continued momentum we are raising the bottom-end of our EBITDA guidance.” 

Some analysts have however raised concerns about AB InBev even meeting its original guidance with Broker Nomura noting that the new guidance was the brewer’s first upgrade in several years after it outperformed expectations in every region in the third quarter. 

AB InBev’s results follow mixed earnings reported by its rivals Carlsberg and Dutch multinational brewing company Heineken. 

Carlsberg, the world’s number three brewer, raised its 2021 profit forecast after higher-than-expected third-quarter revenue, helped by a recovery in Europe and China. 

By contrast, the global number two Heineken reported a steeper-than-expected drop in beer sales in the third quarter, hit by a lockdown in Vietnam, while retaining its forecast for full-year results at below pre-pandemic levels. 

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