From: Reuters
Published January 31, 2008 03:37 PM

Anheuser-Busch profit misses estimates

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Anheuser-Busch Cos Inc <BUD.N> said on Thursday that quarterly profit rose, as the brewer's portfolio of imports helped it sell more beer at higher prices, despite a softening economy.

But the earnings missed analysts' average estimate and the maker of Budweiser and Bud Light saw its shares fall 1 percent in afternoon trading.

The brewer, which controls nearly half the U.S. beer market, reported fourth-quarter net income of $214.1 million, or 29 cents per share, up from $190.7 million, or 25 cents per share, a year ago.

Analysts on average were expecting 32 cents per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

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Quarterly net sales rose to $3.69 billion from $3.43 billion a year ago.

The company sold 36.5 million barrels of beer in the fourth quarter, up 2.9 percent.

U.S. beer shipments-to-wholesalers rose 3.4 percent for the quarter, while sales-to-retailers increased 1.3 percent, adjusted for a calendar shift, the company said.

But excluding growth from imported beers such as InBev NV's <INTB.BR> Stella Artois, wholesale shipments rose slightly while sales to retailers declined.

Anheuser, like rivals Molson Coors Brewing Co <TAP.N> and SABMiller Plc's <SAB.L> Miller unit, is facing many challenges in the United States, including rising costs for grains and energy and a shift in consumer tastes away from domestic beer toward wine, spirits and so-called "craft" beers, made in smaller batches.

International volume, meaning Anheuser brands made overseas and U.S. made beer exported overseas, rose 4.7 percent, as gains in China, Canada and Mexico offset a decline in the United Kingdom.

St. Louis-based Anheuser's shares were down 46 cents at $46.80 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Martinne Geller, editing by Phil Berlowitz/Andre Grenon)

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