UPDATE 3-AB InBev suffers in U.S. ahead of SABMiller takeover
* Q4 core profit $4.31 bln vs expected $4.73 bln
* Total dividend raised to 3.60 euros from 3.00
* Sees challenges in Brazil, China, strong Mexico (Adds Breakingviews link)
By Philip Blenkinsop
BRUSSELS, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Anheuser-Busch InBev, which is strengthening its position as the world's largest brewer by buying SABMiller, reported lower than expected fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday as it suffered a declining U.S. market share and margins.
The Belgium-based maker of Budweiser, Corona and Stella Artois forecast improved volumes and a better brand mix in its largest market, the United States, another strong year in Mexico, but economic challenges in Brazil and China.
AB InBev gave no new information on its planned $100 billion takeover of nearest rival SABMiller, saying it still expected the deal to close in the second half of this year.
It has already arranged provisional sales of U.S. and European brands to Molson Coors and Asahi respectively. Bond issues have also seen it secure funding for about $47 billion of the purchase price.
Its shares fell 1.7 percent to 102 euros, making it among the weakest performers in the FTSEurofirst 300 index of leading European stocks. Continuación...