US investment bank Stifel Nicolaus has today (22 September) downgraded Anheuser-Busch to "hold" from "buy", pointing to slower beer sales.

The Budweiser brewer saw sales-to-retailers rise 1.8% during the first half of the year but growth slowed to 0.5% in July and August.

Stripping out sales of the newly-acquired Rolling Rock, beer sales were flat, Stifel analyst Mark Swartzberg said. "We expected a slowdown, but the magnitude has been greater than expected," Swartzberg said.

A-B has seen demand for imported and craft beers in the US eat into sales of its more mainstream brands. However, has signed deals with overseas brewers including Grolsch and Kirin to bolster its presence in these segments.

Swartzberg said he was "confident" that the beer industry will see sales grow but that imports and crafts would prove the engines for the sector.

He said: "We expect 'better beer' - imports and crafts - to remain the category driver."