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Announcing Anheuser-Busch InBev's YTD results yesterday, CEO Carlos Brito took a moment to reflect that it is now just over a year since his company successfully completed the third-biggest corporate merger in history, with the takeover of SABMiller.

AB InBev CEO Carlos Brito said consumers in the US now have a wider range of beer brands in mind

AB InBev CEO Carlos Brito said consumers in the US now have a wider range of beer brands in mind

It was, said Brito, something that both sides can be proud of. "We came together, learned from one another and grew into a better, stronger company."

Those learnings, it seems, are continuing.

Inside AB InBev's results yesterday was news that AB InBev is set to extract US$400m more in synergies - up to $3.2bn - from the SABMiller deal than initially forecast. The cost of those synergies is also expected to increase, from $900m to $1bn, but the company looks set to come out far ahead of where it thought it would be when sealing the deal 12 months ago.

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The savings - mainly gleaned from best-practice synergies - were well received by analysts, but with caveats. AB InBev's global results yesterday showed solid net sales and gross margin gains in the face of stagnant volumes, but concern remained over performance in the US, especially from the Budweiser brand.

Bernstein's Trevor Stirling called the increased synergies a "significant rabbit out of the hat", and a "spectacular" pay-off for the SABMiller acquisition.

But the Bernstein analyst said that, overall, AB InBev continued to suffer from soft underlying trends that need more than a few best-practice meetings to sort out. For example, in the US, Budweiser and Bud Light continued to lose market share (Bud Light was down almost a full percentage point in Q3). This, says Stirling, could well be down to changing consumer trends rather than anything AB InBev is or isn't doing for the brands.

Speaking to analysts after the results yesterday, Brito said that consumers no longer have three or five brands in mind when they go to the bar or beer store. "Now they have 15 brands in mind," he said.

According to Stirling, this shows AB InBev acknowledges that recent brand fragmentation in the US, which has seen an influx of brands from independent producers, is here to stay.

"If this is the new paradigm, then we need to see more evidence of AB InBev consistently growing brands at scale other than Michelob Ultra," Stirling said.

Other analysts were more upbeat. Stifel's Mark Swartzberg said the results - with improving margins and a focus on premium beers - signalled better profitability ahead. With Brito predicting a pickup in volumes in the US, Brazil and South Africa in the final quarter, AB InBev may not need to rely on cost-savings from the SABMiller deal when the full-year reckoning arrives.

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