After giving back nearly all of its post-earnings gains on the stock market, Anheuser Busch InBev NV (ADR) (NYSE:BUD) resumed its medium-term downtrend. Markets are foolishly ignoring the seasonal strength ahead, the inroads to an improved balance sheet and the company’s strong execution on its growth plans for 2018.
BUD Stock’s Solid Fourth Quarter
Anheuser-Busch topped over $115 per share when the company reported solid fourth-quarter results. The beverage company earned $1.04 per share, beating estimates by 5 cents. Revenue rose a modest 2.8 percent, to $14.6 billion, despite minor headwinds, beating analyst expectations by $110 million. The company capped 2017 with its best results in three years, thanks to an integration of two companies going very well. Global geography served the company well in diversifying the business, so much so that EBITDA grew in the double-digits. Africa, Latin America, and Australia were particularly good markets in 2017 for Anheuser-Busch.
Management’s confidence is well-deserved as the company starts the combined company on a path of solid results for the next 100 years.
Tepid Growth for BUD
Global brands revenue grew by nearly 10 percent, despite wine spirits growing only 0.2 percent. Wine grew 0.6 percent. The non-beer volume growth of 3.1 percent offset those declines. Even as the non-beer phenomenon catches on, the company grew beer revenue in the double digits in Argentina. South Africa’s beer volumes are notable as they grew in the mid-teens.
The company’s strong branding is worth mentioning since it hints of a rebound in beer demand in the future. BrandZ recognized seven of its beers as the top-10 most valuable brands. Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona are in Anheuser-Busch’s global brand portfolio, and constitute 17 percent of its total volume of sales and nearly one-fifth of total revenue.
BUD Growth in China a Double-Edged Sword
With such strong numbers, why is BUD stock pulling back? Talk of the trade war between U.S. and China could lead to lower sales in the region. Previously, the Stella Artois brand grew, thanks to the strong performance in China, followed by Brazil, the U.K, and Argentina.
BUD stock could probably hold up if trade tensions escalate and beer imports somehow get caught up in it. Still, strong branding through World Surf League and Corona Sunsets Festival gave the global image a lift. The awareness-building helped in growing sales for Corona through 2018.
Speaking of branding, the sponsorship at World Cup should give BUD stock a seasonally strong lift, just as it has four years ago. Historically, the company’s first-quarter involved more spending on sales and marketing due to the soccer event. This means the current quarter will end up as an inflection point. It will face higher costs this quarter but the investment will pay off when consumers spend more on the company’s beer products.
Although BUD stock suffered slightly from market losses related to share-based compensation, the company continues to work down debt and increase liquidity. It added more than $20 billion in liquidity, locked in 93 percent of debt to fixed interest rates, and lowered its net debt to EBITDA from 5.5 times in 2016 to 4.8 times in 2017. The company’s goal is to delever its debt to just two times.
Finbox.io’s 10Y DCF EBITDA Exit model implies limited upside for BUD stock, should revenue grow by only 2 percent for the next 10 years. Given how big the merged company is, the positive low-single digit growth is a reasonable assumption.
Bottom Line on BUD
Anheuser-Busch InBev stock hovers near yearly lows and could set new ones in the near-term. Consumer goods stocks are out of favor: Markets think the inability to pass higher prices to consumers will hurt profits. But this beverages supplier is not like The Procter & Gamble Co (NYSE:PG). The high-end premium products resonate with the consumer. So in the unlikely event that the company raises prices this year, it will pass to the consumer without hurting demand.
Disclosure: Author does not own shares of the aforementioned stocks.