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Beer maker Anheuser-Busch InBev sees operating profits rise for 2023 despite backlash over Bud Light

DAVID McHUGH
February 29, 2024

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Multinational beer and beverage company Anheuser-Busch InBev -- maker of Budweiser, Bud Light, Stella Artois and Corona -- reported on Thursday a 7% increase in operating profit for last year, even as as sales sagged in the United States due to a decline in demand for Bud Light.

The earnings news came hours after the company avoided a strike by 5,000 of its U.S. workers as negotiators reached agreement late Wednesday.

Normalized operating earnings, which exclude financial factors such as interest and taxes, rose 7% to $19.98 billion in 2023. That's the figure the company uses to demonstrate its underlying performance.

Full-year profit declined to $6.89 billion from $7.60 billion the year before. Total revenue rose 7.8% to $59.38 billion. The company's CEO Michel Doukeris cited "another year of consistent profitable growth" in which it reduced debt and saw its credit rating upgraded.

U.S. revenue declined 9.5% for the year and 17.3% in the fourth quarter, "primarily due to the volume decline of Bud Light," the company said in an earnings news release.

The Leuven, Belgium-based company is facing declining beer sales in the U.S., where drinkers are increasingly opting for spirits, hard seltzers and alcohol-free beverages. Bud Light, its best-selling brand there, faced a conservative backlash last year after it sent a commemorative can to transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney.

Transgender rights supporters also deserted the brand, saying it didn't do enough to support Mulvaney.

The company did better in Europe, where it increased revenue despite declining volumes and grew operating profit. Profits rose in China.

The company said it would increase its dividend to shareholders by 9% to 82 cents per share.

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