AB InBev CEO Brito to step down, North America chief steps in

The brewer of Budweiser, Corona and Stella Artois lagers separately reported first-quarter earnings ahead of expectations

Carlos Brito will end 15 years of his tenure as chief executive officer of Anheuser-Busch InBev in July, and be replaced by its North America division head as the world's largest brewer seeks to drive beer sales in its global markets.

The company said on Thursday its board had unanimously elected Michel Doukeris, the former head of sales, to succeed fellow Brazilian Brito, the architect of AB InBev's global expansion, from July 1.

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AB InBev Chairman Martin Barrington said in a statement that Doukeris was ideally suited for the company's next phase with his expertise in brands, consumers and innovation. The next phase could be focused on boosting sales of over 500 brands than on acquisitions in an already concentrated brewing market.

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The brewer of Budweiser, Corona and Stella Artois lagers separately reported first-quarter earnings ahead of expectations, even with lockdowns closing hospitality in much of Europe and a one-month alcohol sales ban in South Africa.

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Sales of beer surged 64% in Asia-Pacific, a year on from the initial coronavirus lockdown in China, a major AB InBev market.

They were also up by more than 10% in Latin America, outperforming industry growth in two of its top markets, Brazil and Mexico. In Europe, sales of its own beers were flat.

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Core profit (EBIDTA) rose 14.2% on a like-for-like basis and removing the impact of currency translation to $4.27 billion, stronger than the 6.6% expansion average forecast in a company-compiled poll.

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This figure should increase by between 8% and 12% in 2021, with revenue growth greater than that, based on higher beer sales, price hikes and a shift in consumer taste to premium brands, AB InBev said. (Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)