US brewer Anheuser-Busch said it remained confident it could achieve double digit earnings per share growth in for the full year, despite a slow down in consumer spending over the summer. It added that it expected EPS growth of 7-10% in 2005.

Announcing its third quarter and nine-months results, the company said that its consolidated net sales increased 5.1% in the third quarter, while earnings per share increased 6.3%. Net sales and earnings per share increased 5.8% and 10.8%, respectively, for the nine months.

Results for the nine months of 2004 benefited from a $19.5 million pretax gain ($.015 per share) in the first quarter 2004 from the sale of commodity hedges. This gain is reported in other income/(expense) on the consolidated income statement and does not impact gross profit or operating income. Excluding this gain, earnings per share for the nine months increased 10.1 percent (1) vs. 2003.

"Anheuser-Busch is achieving another year of solid growth in earnings per share, despite the general slowdown in spending for consumer products this summer. We anticipate earnings per share growth of 10 percent to 11 percent (2) for 2004, excluding the benefit of the commodity hedge gain and including the dilution related to the Harbin acquisition," said CEO Patrick Stokes.

"Additionally, we currently expect earnings per share growth in the 7% to 10% range for 2005 compared with 2004 (on a reported basis, including the commodity hedge gain). We remain confident in our ability to achieve our double-digit earnings per share growth objective over the longer-term."

Domestic revenue per barrel increased 2.1% in the third quarter. Domestic revenue per barrel for the nine months of 2004 grew 2.5% versus the same periods in 2003, reflecting the continuing favourable pricing environment.

International volume, consisting of Anheuser-Busch brands produced overseas by company-owned breweries and under license and contract-brewing agreements, plus exports from the company's US breweries to markets around the world, increased 112.1% for the third quarter and 45.7% for the nine months of 2004.

International beer volume for the third quarter 2004 includes 2.6m barrels for Harbin.

Excluding Harbin, international volume decreased 1.8% in the third quarter. The decrease is due to lower volume in Europe, reflecting a difficult comparison with volume in 2003 that benefited from unusually hot summer weather.

For the nine months of 2004, international volume excluding Harbin increased 3.3%, due primarily to higher sales volume in China.

Total Anheuser-Busch beer sales volume for the third quarter and nine months of 2004 rose 8.8% and 4.2%, to 32.5m and 89.1m barrels respectively, versus. 2003.