InBev has announced that Labatt USA and Beck's North America will combine operations. As wholly-owned subsidiaries of InBev, the two companies will form a single, unified organisation in the US for distribution of their beer brands. The move takes effect today (1 September).

The combination of Labatt USA and Beck's North America follows the completion of the agreement between InBev and Femsa to unwind their joint venture in the US, and the closing last week of the transaction in which Interbrew and AmBev merged to form InBev.

"InBev USA will be a completely re-engineered company built for long-term growth in the premium segment of the US beer market, the company said. The company will focus on its high-profit international brands, including Stella Artois, Beck's and Bass," the company said.

InBev USA will triple its investment in Stella Artois in 2005 to support full national distribution, increase its spending on Beck's by more than 50% over the next three years, and continue its heavy investment to secure the position of Bass.

The new unit is also exploring the potential for introducing Brahma, the popular Brazilian beer that is one of the world's top 10 brands.

Simon Thorpe, president and CEO of Labatt USA since 2003, has been named president and CEO of InBev USA.  Tom Cardella, formerly president and CEO of Beck's North America will lead InBev USA's restructured sales organisation as vice-president, sales.

In a statement, InBev's CEO, John Brock, said: "This is a promising first step towards achieving our very ambitious business objectives for the US, one of our key markets. The unified distribution system will enable us to grow aggressively our premium brands, including Brahma. We have the right structure in place and, more importantly, the people to make it happen. InBev USA will be a major contributor to our success in the Americas."