It is now a year since Anheuser-Busch InBev bought key rival SABMiller in a $103 billion deal that reshaped the global brewing industry.
History is often cruel to mega-mergers, but with U.S. tastes shifting, SABMiller looks like it was worth every cent.
Weak third-quarter sales trends reported Thursday by the world’s largest brewer would have been even weaker without SAB’s portfolio, which was skewed to emerging markets, particularly Africa. And management will offset some of the top-line damage by extracting more savings from the continuous integration.
The U.S. remains AB InBev’s central problem. Third-quarter revenue in the country was 5.7% lower than a year earlier. Supply disruptions during the fearsome hurricane season explain part of the slump: The wholesalers that have intermediated the U.S. beer industry and customers since Prohibition ran down inventory. But sales to retailers also slackened, particularly for Budweiser and Bud Light.
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