Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Falling Beer Sales Have Brewery Mergers Over a Barrel

The Wall Street Journal - U.S. beer sales volumes fell 2.2% last year, the highest rate since the 1950s, with demand worsening late in the year in a sign of the pressures on big brewers to make their mergers pay off.

The decline, the industry's first since 2003, raises demands for industry leaders Anheuser-Busch InBev NV and MillerCoors LLC to come up with better advertising and to rethink recent price increases, said retailers and analysts.

But they must tread carefully, balancing price moves against a need to drive profits in the wake of the mergers that created the two.

The two giants increased prices by about 5% last year, fresh off InBev NV's acquisition of Anheuser-Busch Cos. and the move by SABMiller PLC and Molson Coors Brewing Co. to combine U.S. operations. Those increases, along with a weak job market and lackluster advertising, contributed to the sales drop, industry analysts said.

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