Sun, Feb 26, 2006 - Page 11 News List

Anheuser-Busch to market Chinese import beer in US


Anheuser-Busch will release its own Chinese import beer in the US next week, the company announced on Friday.

Anheuser-Busch Cos Inc will release its Harbin Lager beer tomorrow in Los Angeles and Hawaii, said Andy Goeler, vice president of imports. Anheuser-Busch said the beer will be made available throughout the US later this year.

The announcement comes days after Anheuser-Busch announced it will be the sole US distributor of Grolsch, a European beer.

The US' biggest brewer is increasing its selection of imported beers to tap into the high-end market. Beer sales are flat overall, with imports and microbrews accounting for most of the industry's growth.

The company on Thursday expressed confidence that it will restore profit growth this year through a new price plan and cost-cutting measures.

The maker of Budweiser said it continues to target average annual growth of 7 percent to 10 percent in per-share earnings.

Anheuser-Busch did not give a specific earnings outlook for the year, but said it continues to expect earnings per share to increase from its "normalized" profit last year of US$2.31 per share, which excludes one-time items but reflects stock-option expenses.

Analysts, on average, are looking for earnings of US$2.37 per share for the year, according to a poll by Thomson Financial.

The company's fourth-quarter profit plunged 39.5 percent from a year ago, hurt by lackluster domestic beer sales.

"We have restored the volume growth momentum of our domestic beer company," said Patrick Stokes, president and chief executive, in a statement.

The company said its wholesalers' sales rose 2.9 percent through mid-February. It added that its international segment, notably in Mexico and China, is making "substantial contributions" to its earnings growth.

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