Budweiser-owner AB InBev reports profit hike as beer drinkers shoulder higher prices

A customer passes by the brewery section at an H-E-B grocery store on March 02, 2023 in Austin, Texas. Budweiser owner AB InBev is the largest brewer in the world.

Brandon Bell | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Budweiser-owner Anheuser-Busch InBev on Thursday reported a jump in profit for the first quarter, saying the beer industry had proved resilient despite inflationary pressures.

The Belgium-based brewing giant — the biggest in the world — reported core profit of $4.76 billion, up by 13.6% from the first quarter of 2022. The rise compared to a 5.6% consensus estimate published by the company. Underlying profit attributable to shareholders came in at $1.3 billion, up from $1.2 billion during the same quarter last year.

Revenues rose 13.2% year-on-year to $14.2 billion, just ahead of a forecast of $14.1 billion, according to Refinitiv data.

The company said this was achieved through “pricing actions” and nudging customers towards its premium products, as sales volumes rose by just 0.9% over the period. Own-beer volumes were 0.4% higher, and non-beer volumes were up 3.6%.

Revenues from non-alcoholic beers were up by 30% in the quarter. The firm also said sales growth in its core beer portfolio was strong outside of the U.S., its biggest market, boosted by the return of consumer demand in China and continued growth in India.

AB InBev also owns brands including Beck’s, Corona and Stella Artois.

“The beer industry performance improved in 1Q23, demonstrating resilience even in the context of an ongoing inflationary environment,” the company said in its earnings statement.

Earlier this week, AB InBev’s rival Molson Coors told a similar story with its first-quarter results, beating profit forecasts as customers continued to buy its products despite higher prices.  

In April — following the reporting period — AB InBev faced online backlash against its Bud Light brand after a brief social media partnership with a transgender influencer. Online personalities called for a boycott of the beer, while others said AB InBev did not show enough subsequent support for the TikTok star, Dylan Mulvaney.

Later in the month, the company said that it worked “with hundreds of influencers across our brands” as one of many ways to “authentically connect with audiences across various demographics.”

Garrett Nelson, senior equity analyst at CFRA Research, said AB InBev’s reiteration of its full-year earnings growth forecast on Thursday should “reassure investors that financial concerns over the recent consumer backlash over the Bud Light brand are overblown, considering the company’s global portfolio of over 500 beer brands.”

Nelson also noted the company was managing to pass higher input costs on to consumers through price increases.

AB InBev Brussels-listed shares were up 0.6% in Thursday afternoon trade.

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