By SLOBODAN LEKIC, Associated Press
BRUSSELS (AP) — The world's largest brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev NV reported a near doubling in its fourth quarter profits after strong global growth of its Budweiser and Stella Artois brands.
The Leuven-based company said Thursday that its net profit was $1.85 billion compared with $968 million a year earlier. Revenue meanwhile rose 5.7 percent to $9.87 billion.
The company said Budweiser performed well in 2011 with global volumes up by 3.1 percent. Meanwhile, Stella Artois volumes increased by 5.9 percent, led by a 24 percent surge in sales in the United States, 13 percent in Argentina and a massive 200 percent in Brazil.
Overall, the company's three global brands — Budweiser, Stella Artois and Beck's — grew by 3.3 percent, it said.
"In 2011 we delivered another year of strong performance," said Felipe Dutra, AB InBev's finance chief. "In 2012 ... we will continue to lean heavily on our strategic brands."
Investors appeared to welcome the results and the company's share price was trading 2.3 percent higher at euro52.06 in early trading in Brussels.
In the United States early signs of recovery emerged in the second half of last year and going on into 2012. This was supported by the company's new NFL sponsorship, he said.
Dutra said there was a sense that "the U.S. is gradually moving back on track." He pointed to "very encouraging" volumes in the first two months of the year, though he conceded that may have something to do with the unseasonably mild weather.
Newly launched Bud Light Lime and Bud Light Platinum performed particularly well, he said.
Globally, Budweiser has extended its sponsorship of the soccer World Cup through the 2018 edition in Russia and the 2022 event in Qatar.And it will be boosted by the activity and excitement that this year's Olympics in London will generate.
"We believe we have the right brands to exploit that opportunity, before, during and after (the games)," Dutra said.
The company also did well in China with Budweiser, Harbin and the regional brand Sedrin. Growth was in the double digits, a record high, Dutra said.
The company has raised its dividend by 50 percent to 1.20 euros per share.
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