ANHEUSER – BUSCH COMPANIES INC. $47 (New York symbol BUD; Conservative Growth Portfolio, Consumer sector; WSSF Rating: Above average) is the world’s largest brewer. Leading brands include Budweiser, Michelob and Busch. Beer supplies 80% of its revenue. The other 20% comes from theme parks and aluminum can recycling.
In the third quarter of 2006, earnings rose 26.2%, to $0.82 a share from $0.65 a year earlier. However, if you disregard the costs of a lawsuit settlement in the year-earlier quarter, profits grew 7.9%. Sales rose 4.9%, to $4.3 billion from $4.1 billion.
The company has roughly half of the beer market in the United States. Due to slowing domestic beer sales, the company has expanded its international operations in the past few years. It owns half of Mexico’s largest brewer (Modelo) and 27% of China’s main brewer (Tsingtao). A new deal to distribute Budweiser in Paraguay, where beer sales are rising 10% a year, should also expand international sales.
Anheuser-Busch’s large size has let it increase prices to cover rising costs in the past few years, without cutting into sales. It had to delay some planned increases last year due to a price war with rival SABMiller. But price wars are hard to maintain, and Anheuser- Busch plans to increase prices in 2007.
The stock now trades at 18.4 times its likely 2006 profit of $2.55 a share, and 2.4 times its sales of $20 a share. The $1.18 dividend yields 2.5%.
Anheuser-Busch is a buy.