A-B Rebound?

Anheuser-Busch has said domestic volumes are beginning to grow again as it looks to bounce back from a disappointing 2005.

“We have restored the volume growth momentum of our domestic beer company,” Anheuser-Busch president and CEO Patrick Stokes told the Consumer Analyst Group of New York Conference last week.

“We are in the process of restoring revenue per barrel growth through the implementation of our 2006 price plan, and are working to restore cost stability through a number of cost reduction programs.”

Stokes noted rising US volumes in the second half of last year, growth that boosted A-B’s domestic market share in the face of growing competition from Miller Brewing.

That momentum has carried over into 2006, he added, with wholesalers’ sales-to-retailers until the middle of February up 2.9%.

A-B has moved to raise prices again after becoming embroiled in a price war last year with Miller. Stokes said he expects to see “a more favorable pricing environment” in the US this year with prices increasing across the industry.

W. Randolph Baker, A-B’s vice president and CFO, said the brewer was targeting average annual earnings per share growth of 7%-10% but could not give specific guidance for this year.