Brazil and China are saving AB InBev from its Bud Light trans marketing fiasco

Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s profit growth beat analysts’ expectations as a slump in the US sparked by a Bud Light marketing fiasco was offset by strength in other key markets.

Earnings gained more than 20% in Brazil, China and Colombia in the second quarter, counterbalancing a 28% plunge in the US. Global sales growth was just ahead of estimates, and the company maintained its 2023 profit guidance. The stock rose as much as 5.1% Thursday morning.

“We consider this to be a better result than had been feared,” wrote Investec analyst Alicia Forry. “The unchanged full-year outlook is also positive.”

The world’s biggest brewer stepped into a culture-wars controversy after transgender social media personality Dylan Mulvaney featured in a Bud Light promotional video. Calls for a boycott from right-wing conservatives led the company to cut ties with the influencer, who was subjected to online threats and hate speech. That in turn led to a consumer backlash from supporters of Mulvaney, causing a drop in Bud Light’s US sales volumes that some analysts said may be permanent.

Earnings rose 5% in the second quarter on an adjusted basis, double the rate analysts expected. The brewer increased sales of its global brands Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona by 18% outside of their home markets.

AB InBev’s market share in the US plummeted in April but the brewer said it was stable between the last week of April through the end of June. Two-thirds of the profit decline in the US was due to the drop in market share, and the rest came from a loss in productivity, increased marketing spending and support for wholesalers amid the crisis, the company said.

Rivals have been benefiting from AB InBev’s misfortune. In June, Constellation Brands Inc. reported revenue that beat analysts’ estimates after its Modelo brand kicked Bud Light off the rank as the bestselling US beer. Tuesday, Miller Lite maker Molson Coors Beverage Co. reported record sales. 

North America was the source of about a third of AB InBev’s profit last year, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Duncan Fox.

The brewer put marketing executives involved in the Bud Light matter on leave and is cutting several hundred jobs in the US, the Wall Street Journal has reported. The company has also been tripling its media spending on the brand this summer and is sponsoring a series of country music concerts.

AB InBev reiterated its forecast that earnings will probably rise 4% to 8%. Analysts are expecting a gain of 5.2%.

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