A-B Takes a Dive in 4th Qtr. Profits

Profits down 24% – some suggest brewer is missing the craft beer boat

Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc., said Wednesday its third-quarter profit fell 24 percent due to cost pressures, competition from other alcoholic drinks and costs associated with the legal settlement with the Maris family distributorship in Florida.

Excluding the one-time litigation settlement, the company said it would have earned $623 million, or 78 cents per share.

A-B earned $518 million, or 66 cents per share, for the period ending Sept. 30. That’s a decrease of 24 percent from the same period last year when net income was $684 million, or 85 cents per share.

Shares of Anheuser-Busch fell 95 cents, or 2.3 percent, to close at $40.80 on the New York Stock Exchange, its lowest point in nearly four years.

A-B has been struggling this year for the first time in decades. Intense competitive pressure from rival Miller Brewing Company and a stagnate beer market in the major-brand category has put unusual pressure on the St. Louis brewers sales.

Some analysts even suggested that A-B’s woes stem in part from its inability to capture the specialty beer drinker.

Analyst Carlos Laboy of Bear Stearns & Co. Inc. in New York said in his fiancial summary of A-B that the brewer has stayed away from a “key growth market for beer companies – high-end microbrews that come in different flavors and command higher prices at the bar.” Anheuser-Busch “remains steadfast that the Budweiser family can be all things to all people,” Laboy and others wrote in a pessimistic report on the company’s future earnings potential.