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Budweiser brewer hit by slumping sales in China

Anheuser-Busch InBev is running into trouble in China.

The world’s largest brewer on Friday downgraded its annual earnings outlook after weak sales in China and the United States hurt profit growth in the third quarter.

Anheuser-Busch InBev raised roughly $5 billion last month in an IPO of its Asia business that touted future growth in the region, but signs of weakness in China sent its stock listing in Brussels down 10% on Friday and wiped out roughly $16 billion in market value.

The brewer of Budweiser and Stella Artois said in its earnings statement that listing its Asia Pacific business in Hong Kong provided a platform for buying opportunities, and that the unit was “positioned to expand across the fastest growing markets in the region.”

But economic growth in China is at its lowest level in nearly three decades and consumer spending is faltering, putting a number of Western companies that sell goods and services there, such as Nokia and Renault, under pressure.

Growth trouble

Anheuser-Busch InBev said lackluster sales in China and the United States had offset growth in Mexico, South Africa and Colombia. Price increases in South Korea also hurt sales and would be rolled back, the company said.

The brewer pledged to keep prices low in emerging markets, even though doing so had reduced the value of its sales. “We believe a smart affordability strategy is a vital component to reaching new consumers and introducing beer to new occasions,” it said.

In the United States, Anheuser-Busch InBev lost out on booming demand for hard seltzer, or carbonated alcoholic drinks that come in cans. The company said it planned to expand in this category.

Sounding a positive note, Anheuser-Busch InBev said it would be able to reduce its enormous debt pile earlier than expected by using the proceeds of its Hong Kong IPO and the $11.3 billion windfall from the sale of its Australian unit to Japanese beer giant, Asahi.

Anheuser-Busch InBev, which had debt of $102.5 billion in 2018 after buying rival SABMiller, was forced to cut its dividend in half last year to steady its balance sheet.

– Sherisse Pham contributed to this report.

CNN