Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest brewer, forecast strong revenue and profit growth in 2019, with a focus on increasing beer sales rather than just prices, after higher- than-expected earnings at the end of 2018.
The brewer of Budweiser, Corona, and Stella Artois is seeking to draw developed world consumers back to beer from wine and spirits through a wider range of premium lagers and also to attract emerging market drinkers with affordable beers.
The company gave no numerical target for earnings growth this year, but said revenue per hectolitre should increase by more than inflation due to consumers trading up to premium beers as well as price rises. Costs would grow at a slower pace.
AB InBev shares rose more than 4 percent at the opening, picking up ground lost in the run-up to the results in the past week.
"Phew," was the reaction of James Edwardes Jones, analyst at RBC, saying that the results were good and the outlook upbeat.
"Investors' nervousness ahead of these results was palpable."
The shares fell by 38 percent last year, far worse than the 9 percent drop of the STOXX 600 European food and beverage index , as the company laboured in its biggest markets, the United States and Brazil, and under the weight of large debts.
AB InBev, which sells more than one in four beers drunk globally, said it wanted top-line growth to be more balanced between revenue per hectolitre and volumes.
Rival Heineken, the world's second largest brewer, forecast earlier in February that its operating profit would increase by a mid single-digit percentage this year after beer sales growth in all regions in 2018.