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US: Anheuser-Busch InBev denies plans to consolidate distributors

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Anheuser-Busch InBev has denied reports that it is looking into ways to consolidate its network of beer distributors in the US.

A research note from UBS analyst Melissa Earlam, reported in the Wall Street Journal, said that ABI's management was studying the possibility of one day selling up to 50% of its US volumes directly to retailers through its own distributors.

The plan might include owning many more distributors itself, the report said.

Anheuser-Busch currently has 13 distributors of its own in cities that include New York, Denver and San Diego. The ownership of distribution companies by producers is not allowed in all US states as part of the three-tier system.

However, in a statement released to just-drinks, the brewer hit back at the suggestion.

"There is no change in our current US strategy. Anheuser-Busch InBev has no plans to force consolidation," the statement said. "Consolidation has been occurring for many years, and we believe it will and should continue. We believe this should happen voluntarily over time. This is a position we have expressed to wholesalers repeatedly, and there is no change in our position."

It added: "Anheuser-Busch InBev continues to strongly support the three-tier system, not a two-tier system. There are no plans to significantly expand company owned-wholesalerships at this time, and recent history demonstrates that we have both acquired and divested distribution operations based on a market-by-market assessment of what is the optimal business strategy."

The company has been looking at ways to cut costs since InBev acquired Anheuser-Busch. The brewer expects total synergies from the deal to reach $2.25bn and has said that $1bn of this will be delivered by savings in the A-B US division in 2009.

In May, the brewer reported an increase in profits and a 4.7% rise in like-for-like sales for the first quarter of 2009.

At the time, A-B InBev CEO Carlos Brito said: "We are moving quickly to capture our synergy goals and achieved US$295m of synergies in Q1."


Sectors: Beer & cider

Companies: Anheuser-Busch InBev

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