AB InBev replaces North America chief to stem sales slide

Food and Beverage Reuters

The logo of Anheuser-Busch InBev is pictured outside the brewer's headquarters in Leuven, Belgium February 25, 2016. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo (Reuters)

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The world's biggest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev, is replacing the head of its North America business to stem a slide in sales in its largest market.

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AB InBev said Joao Castro Neves had decided to step down and his place would be taken on Jan. 1 by another Brazilian company veteran, Michel Doukeris, currently chief sales officer.

Consumers in the United States are shifting from AB InBev's mainstream lagers Budweiser and Bud Light to craft beers made by smaller brewers, Mexican imports or wines and spirits.

AB InBev has sold less beer in North America in each year since 2014, with a steep 6.2 percent drop in the third quarter of this year.

"People are trading up," said Liberum analyst Nico von Stackelberg. "I don’t think anyone is really hoping for dramatic volume turnarounds. Just stopping the bleeding is the hope."

Doukeris has previously headed up the company's Chinese and Asia Pacific operations, helping to expand Budweiser globally and launching AB InBev's U.S. unit focused on import and craft beer brands, which have grown.

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"The U.S. is our most important market and we recognize the need to continue to focus on driving topline growth across our portfolio," said AB InBev Chief Executive Carlos Brito.

AB InBev shares were down 0.4 percent at 100.05 euros at 1420 GMT.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; additional reporting by Martinne Geller; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

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