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AB InBev – Q1 in line, full-year profit guidance on track

AB InBev’s first-quarter results were broadly in line with market expectations, and full-year guidance has been reiterated.
AB InBev - full year profit growth at top end of guidance

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AB InBev reported first-quarter revenue of $14.5bn, up 2.6% on an organic basis. This was in line with market expectations as 3.3% price hikes offset a marginal decline in beer volumes.

Underlying operating profit grew 5.0% to $3.6bn. Improved profitability was helped by consumers’ ongoing shift to more premium and profitable brands, as well as tight cost controls.

Full-year cash profit (EBITDA) guidance has been reiterated, expected to grow by 4-8% (up 7% in 2023), in line with the group’s medium-term target.

The shares rose 5.8% following the announcement.

Our view

AB InBev’s first-quarter revenue growth of 2.6% was in line with market expectations, as modest price hikes helped offset a marginal decline in beer volumes.

Performance in the US remained weak, with revenue falling at near double-digit rates. This was partly attributed to the fallout from Bud Light’s controversial and poorly received marketing campaign.Top of Form

However, there could be reasons for investors to become slightly more positive on the group's outlook. The Bud Light boycott is unlikely to get any worse and it’s now been over a year since the boycott began in April 2023. That makes for easier comparative numbers from now on, meaning there could be room for upside surprises as we move through 2024.

Input cost inflation is also easing. That’s already boosting profitability and should continue to do so as long as the group can keep pushing modest price increases onto customers. We think this looks achievable given the strength and diversity of the group’s brands.

In other developed markets like Europe, a trend towards more premium products presents the opportunity to boost both margins and revenues. That's played into the group's hands as strong brands like Budweiser and Corona have reaped the rewards of the shift.

Footholds in less-developed markets from Latin America to Sub-Saharan Africa mean there's scope for huge volume growth in the years ahead. Premiumisation is a trend that's making its way into these regions too. Growth in Brazil and Columbia was driven by more expensive brands.

Our biggest bugbear is the balance sheet, which is carrying too much debt. Net debt was sitting at around 3.4 times cash profit (EBITDA) at year-end, a long way from the company's target of 2.0 times. That means shareholder returns are likely to take a back seat until debt gets brought down to more palatable levels.

AB InBev's enviable portfolio of brands and huge global footprint means it's got a finger in just about every pie. The outlook appears to be improving and long-term growth prospects shouldn't be dismissed. But in the near term, volume growth is unlikely to shoot the lights out. To some extent, that's outside of the group's control and relies on economic conditions improving. For now, we prefer other names in the beverages sector.

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) risk

The food and beverage industry tends to be medium-risk in terms of ESG though some segments like agriculture, tobacco and spirits fall into the high-risk category. Product governance is a key risk industry-wide, especially in areas with strict quality and safety requirements. Labour relations and supply chain management are also industry-wide risks, with other issues varying by sub-sector.

According to Sustainalytics, AB InBev’s management of ESG risk is strong. In 2022, 77% of the group’s products were in returnable packaging or made from majority-recycled content. The group aims to up this to 100% by 2025. The percentage of women at each level of the business has increased in recent years, however, it is still significantly below 50% representation.

AB InBev key facts

All ratios are sourced from Refinitiv, based on previous day’s closing values. Please remember yields are variable and not a reliable indicator of future income. Keep in mind key figures shouldn’t be looked at on their own – it’s important to understand the big picture.

This article is original Hargreaves Lansdown content, published by Hargreaves Lansdown. It was correct as at the date of publication, and our views may have changed since then. Unless otherwise stated estimates, including prospective yields, are a consensus of analyst forecasts provided by Refinitiv. These estimates are not a reliable indicator of future performance. Yields are variable and not guaranteed. Investments rise and fall in value so investors could make a loss.

This article is not advice or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold any investment.No view is given on the present or future value or price of any investment, and investors should form their own view on any proposed investment.This article has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and is considered a marketing communication.Non - independent research is not subject to FCA rules prohibiting dealing ahead of research, however HL has put controls in place(including dealing restrictions, physical and information barriers) to manage potential conflicts of interest presented by such dealing.Please see our full non - independent research disclosure for more information.
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Written by
Aarin Chiekrie
Aarin Chiekrie
Equity Analyst

Aarin is a member of the Equity Research team. Alongside our other analysts, he provides regular research and analysis on individual companies and wider sectors. Having a keen interest in global economics, he knows how macro-events can impact individual companies.

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Article history
Published: 8th May 2024