A series of aggressive acquisitions in a rapidly consolidating market has made AB InBev the world's biggest brewer by a considerable margin. The process began in 2000 when Belgian company Interbrew bought two of the UK's biggest beer marketers as well as a collection of German brands including Beck's. Added to the group's existing European flagship Stella Artois, and a strong portfolio of regional beers, these gave the company the right to describe itself as the "world's local brewer" by 2003, with a leading position in virtually every country in which it had a presence. This was followed in 2004 by what was in effect the reverse takeover of Interbrew by South American brewer AmBev to form a new global giant under the name InBev. That deal gave the enlarged group a far more extensive global profile than its main rivals of the time, Anheuser-Busch and SABMiller, but it still lacked a significant presence in the US, the world's biggest beer market. That changed dramatically in 2008 when InBev succeeded in acquiring American giant Anheuser-Busch for a whopping $52bn. The resulting group widened its lead further in 2013 with a deal to acquire the shares it didn't already own in Mexican partner Modelo, owners of Corona Extra. This steady expansion reached its crescendo in 2015 with a deal to acquire nearest rival SABMiller for an extraordinary $104bn, primarily to achieve a strong foothold across Africa. (Much of the rest of SABMiller was sold on to other buyers). As a result, in addition to lead global brands Budweiser, Stella Artois, Beck's and Corona (outside the US), the global portfolio includes key local jewels including Castle Lager in South Africa, Skol in Brazil, Leffe, Hoegaarden and Jupiler in the Benelux region, Franziskaner in Germany, Harbin in China, and VB and Carlton in Australia. When you reach the top, though, there's nowhere you can really go but down. With no potential acquisition targets left, growth has plateaued, prompting thoughts of the spin-off of regional subsidiaries or even diversification into other drinks categories. AB InBev's hard-pressed operations in Russia and Ukraine were demerged into an existing JV with Anadolou Efes of Turkey in 2018. Other such demergers or partial spin-offs are under consideration. Group revenues for 2018 were $54.6bn with net income of $5.7bn. Latin America accounted for 40% of revenues; North America for 28%. Total beer volumes were 505m hl, with another 62m hl of other drinks. The company is a key local licensee for PepsiCo brands in Latin America. Acquisitions have left AB InBev with a massive $102.5bn debt mountain. Brazilian-born Carlos Brito is CEO, and the group is effectively controlled by 3G Capital, the investment umbrella for Brazilian entrepreneurs Jorge Paulo Lemann, Marcel Herrmann Telles and Carlos Sicupira.
Capsule checked 21st May 2019
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Adbrands Daily Update 8th May 2019: AB InBev said it is considering a partial IPO of its Asia Pacific division. Such a move would create a relationship similar to that between the main corporate parent and its majority-owned Latin American subsidiary AmBev, which is locally quoted in Brazil. Valuations of the Asian business, whose two biggest markets are China and Australia, are around $40bn-$50bn. A float would raise cash for further local acquisitions and would also help to reduce the corporate parent's still-substantial $100bn debt.
Adbrands Daily Update 1st Mar 2019: Continuing weakness in AB InBev's two biggest markets of the US and Brazil offset solid growth elsewhere, with Mexico the best performer overall. China and Colombia also performed well. However, crucially, Bud Light and Budweiser continued to lose share in the US. There were gains for stablemate Michelob and Bud family spin-offs Bud Light Orange and Budweiser Reserve, but AB InBev's combined beer volumes in North America slipped by 2.6%. Group revenues fell 3% to $54.6bn as a result of currencies and divestments. On a organic basis the group claimed a 5% lift. That was mainly the result of higher pricing and better sales from premium products: group volumes were more or less flat on an organic basis. Higher financial expenses relating in part to the group's still-massive $102.5bn debt mountain, as well as a higher tax charge, cut deeply into profitability. Net income plunged by more than a third to $5.7bn.
Adbrands Weekly Update 30th Aug 2018: AB InBev named Australian marketer Richard Oppy as VP, global brands with responsibility for international brands including including Corona, Stella Artois and Budweiser. Oppy started his career at Australia's Carlton & United Breweries, which joined the AB InBev portfolio in 2017, and was most recently VP marketing for AB InBev Asia Pacific South.
Adbrands Weekly Update 2nd Aug 2018: AB InBev announced several changes to its management team to take effect from January 2019, including the appointment of Pedro Earp as global chief marketing officer, and also head of the group's venture capital arm ZX Ventures. He will take over from Miguel Patricio, who has been named as chief of special global projects. Another key marketer, Lucas Herscovici, will become chief non-alcohol beverages officer, tasked with building the group's small but significant portfolio of soft drinks. Region Europe CEO Stuart Macfarlane will step down from the group at the same time, to be succeeded by current North Europe chief Jason Warner.
Adbrands Weekly Update 21st Jun 2018: Cannes Lions 2018. The first batch of winners were announced from Cannes Lions 2018. (See the full run-down, including all the Gold, Silver and Bronze winners at the Cannes Lions 2018 website). Halfway through the week and AB InBev had already collected two Grand Prix. In Print & Publishing, DDB's Africa Sao Paulo won Grand Prix as well as two Golds for its cheeky Tagwords campaign for Budweiser. AB InBev was also the top winner in Radio & Audio as well with a social responsibility campaign for Carling Black Label from Ogilvy South Africa. This adapted the words of the country's most popular soccer anthem to highlight the issue of domestic violence. Incidents of gender-based assault spike dramatically after football games, fuelled principally by alcohol. The agency arranged for a choir of mothers and daughters to appear on the pitch before the country's biggest soccer event singing the national football anthem. Halfway through the lyrics were altered: "His team lost and he's been drinking. What excuse will he give if this ends in a fight?"
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