AmBev, the Brazil-based division of Anheuser-Busch InBev, has reported a 10% rise in net sales and a 32% jump in net profits for the first quarter of 2009, driven by a better-than-expected performance in its home market.

Net sales rose by 10.7% to BRL$5.65bn (US$2.8bn) for the first three months of this year, AmBev said today (7 May).

Net profits increased by 32% to BRL1.6bn, compared to the same period last year, while operating profits rose by 33% to BRL2.8bn.

Like-for-like volumes rose by 5% for the quarter, as growth in beer and soft drinks sales in Brazil offset flat volume sales for the group's Quinsa business and a slowdown in Canada, the brewer said.

AmBev's performance helped to lift parent firm A-B InBev, which today beat many analysts' expectations with its first quarter results.

AmBev said that growth in Brazil was largely due to good weather, a 12% rise in the minimum wage and slower food price inflation.

The group's business in the north of Latin America, known as HILA-ex, saw "significant slowdowns in most markets" and reported operating losses of BRL$38.9m for the quarter, compared to a loss of BRL$16.3m last year.

Its business in the south of Latin America, Quinsa, saw operating profits rise by 23% to BRL$585m, due to revenue growth and cost savings.

AmBev remained cautious in its full-year outlook: "The first quarter of 2009 has been positive to our overall business, particularly Brazil, but as we look ahead to the rest of the year, we believe the economic scenario remains challenging and volatile [and] could still impact industry volumes, particularly in Brazil where we have seen the most resilience year to date."