Led by continued strong growth in its domestic beer operations, the world's largest brewer Anheuser-Busch saw its first quarter net income rise 6.3% while earnings per share increased 11.8%.

Net income was US$484.8m, or 57 cents a share, compared with US$456.1m, or 51 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. Consolidated net sales increased 4.6%.

"Anheuser-Busch had another very good quarter and continued its track record of delivering consistent and dependable earnings growth. The company has now achieved 18 consecutive quarters of solid double- digit earnings per share growth," said CEO Patrick Stokes. The company said strong growth in domestic revenue per barrel drove significantly enhanced profit margins in the quarter. Both gross profit margin and operating profit margin improved 80 basis points compared to the first quarter 2002. Return on capital employed increased 160 basis points over the past twelve months.

Domestic revenue per barrel grew 2.8% in the first quarter 2003 vs. the first quarter 2002.

"This growth reflects the continued favourable pricing environment and the company's successful implementation of pricing actions on approximately two-thirds of its domestic volume in two phases - October 2002 and February 2003, " A-B said.

Worldwide Anheuser-Busch beer sales volume for the first quarter 2003 rose 1.7%, to 26.7 million barrel. Domestic volumes in the US increased 1.3% in the first quarter. International volume increased 7.9% in the period.

"Anheuser-Busch's continuing success reflects our ability to capitalize on favorable domestic beer industry fundamentals," said Stokes. "We remain confident in our ability to achieve our 12% earnings per share growth objective for 2003."