Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest brewer, increased first quarter profit by more than expected as it lifted prices and sold more premium lagers in Brazil and China, making up for sharply lower U.S. shipments.
Overall volumes declined by 1.2 percent, principally due to a 6 percent fall in sales to U.S. wholesalers, which had last year built inventories ahead of union negotiations.
However, the company sold more of its higher priced global brands. Volumes of Budweiser, which are now greater outside than inside the United States, rose by 6.2 percent, with particularly strong growth in Brazil and China.
AB InBev shares, which had dropped more than 10 percent since mid-April as the euro rallied, were up 2.8 percent at 107.70 euros, making them among the strongest in the FTSEurofirst 300 index of leading European stocks.
"Most of the beat is due to very strong pricing in Brazil," said Bernstein Research beverage analyst Trevor Stirling, adding the company had also gained in Brazil from incentives to invest, such as building new breweries.
By focusing more on premium beers, AB InBev has been able to defy the slowdown in major emerging markets.
In Brazil, AB InBev's and the world's second largest beer market in terms of profit, beer sales were largely unchanged, but the company managed to increase revenue per hectolitre by 11 percent.
Chief Financial Officer Felipe Dutra said inflation accounted for some 8 percent, with the rest coming from a consumer shift to the likes of Budweiser and recently launched Corona and Skol Beats Senses.