--AB InBev said CEO Carlos Brito will step down after 15 years in the role

--The Budweiser brewer swung to a first-quarter profit as sales beat expectations

--The company said beer volumes in the period exceeded pre-pandemic levels


By Adria Calatayud


Anheuser-Busch InBev SA said Thursday that Chief Executive Officer Carlos Brito will step down from his role and that Michel Doukeris will succeed him, as it reported a return to first-quarter net profit on sales that beat expectations.

The world's largest brewer--with brands such as Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona--said revenue returned to pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter, with beer volumes exceeding those of the comparable periods of 2019 and 2020 on the back of a strong performance of its premium portfolio.

"Our business is off to a very strong start in 2021," Mr. Brito said.

The company said its CEO succession will be effective July 1. Mr. Doukeris has headed the group's North American operations since January 2018, having joined the company in 1996. He has held several commercial operations roles in Latin America, led its operations in China and Asia Pacific for seven years and moved to the U.S. in 2016.

Mr. Brito will step down after 15 years as CEO and 32 years with the company, overseeing the integration of U.S. brewer Anheuser-Busch with the Belgian-Brazilian conglomerate InBev and, more recently, the 2016 takeover of rival SABMiller.

AB InBev said sales grew 17% in the first quarter on an organic basis, while total organic volume growth was 13%. Organic volumes jumped 63% in Asia Pacific and rose by 12% in South America and by 2.9% in North America. They fell 2.1% in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the company said.

Analysts had expected AB InBev to report first-quarter organic growth in sales and volumes of 8.7% and 7.3%, respectively, according to consensus estimates compiled by the company.

AB InBev made a profit for the quarter of $595 million compared with a loss of $2.25 billion a year earlier, it said.

Revenue was $12.29 billion compared with $11.00 billion, the company said.

AB InBev said it expects normalized earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization to grow between 8% and 12% this year, and revenue to grow ahead of Ebitda from a combination of volume and price. The company had previously said it expected its top and bottom-line results in 2021 to improve meaningfully compared with 2020.

AB InBev said it delivered top- and bottom-line growth in the U.S., as it continues to refocus on faster-growing core segments. The company said Michelob Ultra and its craft brands grew strongly in the first quarter in the U.S.

In China, the company's revenue grew more than 90%, surpassing pre-pandemic levels, and earnings were also higher than in the comparable periods of 2019 and 2020, the company said.

However, AB InBev's European business continues to be hurt by significant Covid-19 restrictions on bars and restaurants, and the company was also hit by a government-mandated one-month ban on alcohol sales in South Africa, it said.


Write to Adria Calatayud at adria.calatayud@dowjones.com


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 06, 2021 02:20 ET (06:20 GMT)

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