* China, Mexico, South Africa, Argentina strong
* Brazil profit declines for sixth consecutive quarter
* “Promising” second half, “cautiously optimistic” on Brazil
* SABMiller takeover savings $335 mln in Q2 (Updates with CFO, shares, analyst comment)
By Philip Blenkinsop
BRUSSELS, July 27 (Reuters) - Strong growth in China, Mexico and new market South Africa helped Anheuser-Busch InBev , the world’s largest brewer, to increase earnings in the second quarter.
The company behind Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona, which makes more than a quarter of the world’s beer, said the second half of the year looked “promising”. It was “cautiously optimistic” about Brazil, its second largest market, where it is hoping to end an 18-month slump.
AB InBev, which sells more than twice as much beer as nearest rival Heineken following its $100 billion acquisition of SABMiller in 2016, said it found $335 million of savings from the takeover, far more than achieved in the first quarter, but retained its overall $2.8 billion target.
The company’s shares, which have come off 10 percent since a 2017 peak in May, were 5.1 percent higher at 0810 GMT, making them among the strongest performers in the FTSEurofirst 300 index of leading European stocks on Thursday.
“The volumes are decent, albeit with some overshipping in the United States. The synergy figure is above expectations. Overall, it’s decent after several miserable quarters,” said Trevor Stirling, analyst at Bernstein Securities.
AB InBev said volumes rose in almost every market and it pushed through price increases and persuaded consumers to buy higher-priced beers. Of its larger markets, volumes fell in its biggest, the United States and Brazil, as well as in Colombia.
Brazil was the only main market to see profits decline, for a sixth consecutive quarter, as Latin America’s largest economy emerges unevenly and slowly from its worst recession in more than a century.
Finance Director Felipe Dutra told a conference call that revenues per hectolitre, hit by a 2016 tax increase not fully passed on to consumers, should improve and costs should fall as the Brazilian real recovered from a near 40 percent devaluation to the dollar.
In its largest market, the United States, cost savings pushed up profits but volumes fell as the growth of higher-end beers failed to compensate did not make up for falling sales of Budweiser and Bud Light.
“While we are not satisfied with our market share performance in the U.S. nor our results in Brazil we have delivered strong top-line results in almost every other market and are placed to see the company growth accelerating,” Dutra said.
The brewer saw an overall 1 percent increase in beer volumes and shifted consumers on to higher priced beers, resulting in a 5 percent increase in revenues.
Second-quarter core profit (EBITDA) was up 11.8 percent excluding currency shifts and on a like-for-like basis, at $5.35 billion, compared with the average forecast in a Reuters poll of $5.40 billion. (Reporting By Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek and Keith Weir)