World Cup delivers 'fantastic result' in UK for Budweiser owner AB InBev

Brewing behemoth AB InBev, owner of the Stella Artois and US Budweiser brands, was yesterday toasting a World Cup boost from thirsty football fans as UK beer volumes rose by almost a fifth in the April-June period.

The group, which also sells Beck's, Bass and Boddingtons, said volumes in the UK jumped 18.6 per cent in the quarter and 11.4 per cent over the first half, outstripping other European markets.

Budweiser was the official beer of the South African football tournament and UK volumes of the brand rose more than 70 per cent against the first half of 2009, the company added. AB InBev also benefited from local World Cup sponsorship deals for several of its other brands including Brahma in Brazil, and Jupiler in Holland and Belgium.

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UK president Stuart Macfarlane said the UK had delivered "a fantastic result, even more so in this challenging environment" as better weather and a promotional campaign also increased demand.

The brewer launched Budweiser across Russia in May - the world's fourth largest beer market - and hopes to use the football tournament as a platform for moves into other markets.

"The increased consumer interest and engagement with the Budweiser brand initiated by the World Cup provides an early indication of the brand's global potential," the brewer said.

The strong UK showing contrasted with a more sluggish 2.6 per cent rise in own-beer volumes across western Europe during the second quarter, amid much tougher conditions in German and Belgian markets.

First-half volumes fell 9.8 per cent in Germany as the group came under heavy competition pressure, while the firm was also hit with strikes in its home Belgian market.

Across the business as a whole - formed by a mega-merger in 2008 between InBev and Anheuser-Busch to create the world's largest brewer -- organic revenues rose 4.1 per cent to $9.2 billion (5.8bn). Underlying earnings were up 5.6 per cent to $3.4bn. The group has UK breweries at sites including Magor in South Wales, Mortlake in London and Samlesbury near Preston.

It told investors it had hedged input costs, such as malting barley, other grains and hops, to protect it from the current surge in barley prices, which have tracked rising wheat prices.

KBC Securities analyst Wim Hoste said recent concerns among investors over rising commodity prices were exaggerated as the price of wheat was still far below the 2008 peak.

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Drought in Russia and its temporary ban on grain exports have caused world grain prices to rise and prompted a sharp drop in AB InBev shares last week.

Analysts said the group gained from growth in markets like Brazil, favourable weather and the success of the Budweiser brand.

Carlsberg reports half-year profits next Tuesday, Heineken on 25 August.

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