A-B InBev sees potential for its brands in China

A-B InBev sees potential for its brands in China

The head of Anheuser-Busch InBev has said he is “optimistic” about the group’s prospects in China as it plans to open four more breweries in the country by 2015.

During a conference call today (27 February), following the brewer’s full-year results, CEO Carlos Brito said A-B InBev is on course to have an extra 20m hectolitres of capacity in China as a result of the new sites. He flagged that China was the world’s biggest growth region for Budweiser last year. 

“We remain optimistic about the long-term prospects (in China),” said Brito. CFO Felipe Dutra later added: “We are building for the future in China and feel good about the strategy and the direction.”

Earlier today, the company reported that its beer volumes in China edged up by 1.9% in the full-year, but fell by 8.1% in Q4 due to bad weather. However, A-B InBev estimated it grew market share in the country in both the full-year and Q4, as its "focus" brands, Budweiser, Harbin and Sedrin, performed well. 

Last year, the company agreed to acquire majority stakes in four breweries in China and set up breweries in Fujian and Henan. 

Earlier this month, rivals Heineken said it is happy to avoid the mainstream sector in China and instead focus on the country's premium market

Meanwhile, on prospects for the US beer market, Brito admitted the group expects to see some “softness” in the first quarter of 2013 as economic pressures on consumers take their toll. 

Earlier, the CEO talked up the group’s promising “pipeline of innovations”, including Budweiser Black Crown, launched in the US last month. Brito said the new product is “designed to carry the (Budweiser) brand into night-time occasions” and has had a “good start” in the market. The core Budweiser brand experienced a “disappointing” year in terms of US share performance, however.

On A-B InBev’s US$20.1bn bid for Grupo Modelo, Dutra confirmed that the judge overseeing the anti-trust lawsuit, brought by the US Department of Justice, has agreed to delay the case until March 19. “We remain excited about the potential to grow this business,” said Dutra.