After years of rapid growth and dominant market share, it's hard not to think a stall in growth could be brewing for the self-proclaimed king of beers, Anheuser-Busch
Anheuser controls close to half of the domestic beer market, and it continues to expand its beer portfolio by adding higher-margin beverages. But, as you might imagine, its brew can be found in nearly every pub, liquor store, and grocer, making it difficult to find new growth avenues. Plus, consumers are increasingly embracing premium spirits and alcohol, and shifting away from the company's core brands.
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Anheuser's second-quarter sales were up 6.1% and diluted earnings advanced 7.4%, which was slightly more than analysts were expecting. The bottom-line figure just caught the low end of management's 7% to 10% long-term target, as decent volume trends and investing exposure to Mexican-beer firm Grupo Modelo and China's Tsingtao beer helped boost maturing growth here at home.
Fortunately, the company's leadership position leads to pricing power. "Consistent with its pattern for pricing actions in recent years," Anheuser will increase U.S. prices early next year to offset higher commodity and other costs that go into producing and distributing its products. And ample, stable cash flow means the company can easily act when it finds the right "high-margin growth opportunities," which now appear to be overseas.
I'm interested to see the type of growth Anheuser can continue to produce, given the challenges it's facing. If the company can start posting earnings gains near the high end of its long-term range throughout the rest of the year, I'd be more interested. But for now, there are a couple of secular trends working against it.
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Anheuser-Busch is a recommendation of Motley Fool Inside Value. Diageo is a recommendation of Motley Fool Income Investor. Whatever your taste preference, The Motley Fool has brewed up an investing service to quench your stock thirst.
Fool contributor Ryan Fuhrmann is long shares of Diageo, but has no financial interest in any other company mentioned. Feel free to email him with feedback or to discuss any companies mentioned further. The Fool has a disclosure policy that still prefers an ice cold beer over spirits.