LEUVEN, Belgium — Anheuser-Busch InBev may be struggling with a massive debt load, but the king of beers had some refreshingly good news for investors Thursday.
Shares of AB InBev soared nearly 6% after the Budweiser, Bud Light and Stella Artois owner reported solid sales and earnings.
The company said demand was strong in several key markets, most notably Mexico, Brazil, Europe, South Africa, Nigeria, Australia and Colombia. The more than 2% jump in volume was AB InBev’s largest in over five years.
The Anheuser-Busch brewery in St. Louis got a lot of attention last week after they teased a secret pop-up shop that gave visitors a chance to win beer for life. This came at a time when sales in the U.S. are down.
AB InBev’s stock has skyrocketed this year, surging more than 55% despite weak demand for its mainstay beer brands in the U.S. — the company said volume in North America fell again in the second quarter — as well as trouble in Asia.
The company, which bought rival brewer SABMiller a few years ago and has also acquired several smaller craft beer microbreweries in the past decade, has been trying to pare its burdensome mountain of debt as of late.
But AB InBev pulled the plug on a proposed IPO of its Asian business in Hong Kong earlier this month, citing tough market conditions. That would have raised nearly $10 billion for the company.
AB InBev wound up selling its Australian unit instead to Japan’s Asahi for more than $11 billion after it scrapped the Asia IPO.
AB InBev’s debt burden remains stubbornly high — at more than $100 billion. That’s why Macquarie Capital analyst Caroline Levy still has a “neutral” rating on the stock.
But Levy added that the strong sales — particularly coming after a big promotional push from the company at the same time a year ago during the men’s FIFA World Cup soccer tournament — is a good sign.
People in the U.S. may still be shunning big brand-name beer like Bud, but the rest of the world isn’t.