* Q3 core profit (EBITDA) $4.40 bln vs consensus $4.43 bln
* Sees faster revenue per hectolitre growth due to premium beers
* No longer sees return to volume growth in China
* Interim dividend 1.60 euros vs 1.00 euros a year ago (Adds Breakingviews link)
By Philip Blenkinsop
BRUSSELS, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer, gave an upbeat view on revenues due to higher than expected sales of premium lagers and raised its dividend even though it is primed to launch a $100 billion-plus takeover of SABMiller next week.
The brewer of Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona, which has a provisional agreement to buy its nearest rival, said it now believed revenue per hectolitre would grow by more than inflation, having previously said it would grow in line.
The effect would more than offset an expected increase of sales costs, such as on costlier ingredients and fancier packaging for more expensive beers, such as Stella Artois in the United States, Bud Light in Mexico or Budweiser in China.
AB InBev said its board had approved an interim dividend of 1.60 euros per share, from 1.00 euros a year earlier.
AB InBev shares rose as much as 2.5 percent to an 11-week high of 110.15 euros, putting them among the strongest in the FTSEurofirst 300 index of leading European stocks.
“The sales guidance isn’t going to blow the lights out. It’s a fractional upgrade,” said Societe Generale beverage analyst Andrew Holland. “The dividend is up much more than expected. Some had been pricing in a 30-40 percent cut.”
The Belgium-based brewer offered little additional comment on its proposed takeover of SABMiller. It is expected to launch a formal bid by Nov. 4, having already carried out a due diligence check on its target and cleared a debt facility to fund a deal.
Chief Financial Officer Felipe Dutra said a week-long deadline extension the beer groups had agreed for a formal bid to be made related to commitments from shareholders to support a deal.
“(This) should not be a problem as they both stated their support... in the respective board meetings. It’s more a matter of lawyers working together to have the final documents ready to go,” he said.
The company retained its view that volumes would improve in the United States, its largest market, and grow in Mexico, with revenue expansion in Brazil of a mid- to high-single digit percentage.
However, for China, it said the economic slowdown and poor summer weather meant it no longer expected industry volumes to grow in the second half of the year.
It said that it still expected to fare better than the market average in 2015 there and said revenue per hectolitre would increase due to strong premium brand sales.
The Belgium-based beer maker also said third-quarter core profit was $4.40 billion, an overall decline but a 9.6 percent increase excluding currency and scope changes. It was a little below the $4.43 billion expected in a Reuters poll of 10 analysts.
Overall volumes rose by 1.5 percent in the July-Sept period, with increases in beer sales across the Americas. However, price rises and consumer shifts to more expensive beers meant revenue grew by 7.9 percent.
Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Adrian Croft