Stuart MacFarlane, AB InBev

AB InBev’s Stuart MacFarlane is to head up a combined European division

Former AB InBev UK boss Stuart MacFarlane, who developed the brewer’s hit Stella Artois Cidre and Stella 4%, is to head up a new combined European division for the company.

MacFarlane will lead AB InBev’s Western Europe and Central & Eastern Europe Zone at the company’s headquarters in Leuven. The combined office will “better position the company to tackle the opportunities and challenges facing its business”, AB InBev said. MacFarlane, currently zone president, Central & Eastern Europe, will take up his new role on 1 January 2014.

Jo Van Biesbroeck, the brewer’s current head of Western Europe, will continue in his other role as chief strategy officer and will also head up AB InBev International, its global export and licensing operation.

MacFarlane’s promotion comes just over two years after he left the UK to run AB InBev’s Eastern European operation in Moscow. He became UK & Ireland boss in 2008, having joined the company in 1992.

In its third-quarter results, published today, AB InBev grew revenue 3% to $11.73bn, with EBITDA up 10.5% to $4.66bn. However, total volumes fell 1.3%, with beer volumes down 1.4%.

UK outlook

Warm summer weather in the UK pushed beer and cider volumes there up 4.2%, the company said, but UK market share in the year-to-date had been hit by “ongoing promotional pressure”.

“We are pleased with the performance of AB InBev UK’s beer and cider brands this quarter,” said Inge Plochaet, BU president, AB InBev UK. “Budweiser and Stella Artois Cidre have seen strong volume growth year on year, boosted by the good weather over the summer. 

“Our investment in innovative marketing, for example the Stella Artois Cidre temperature-activated advertising campaign, has also helped to increase brand equity and drive purchase.”

Volumes down

Elsewhere, beer volumes in Western Europe inched up 0.1%, but were down 19% in Central and Eastern European due to “weak industry performance” in Russia and Ukraine. Falling volumes in the US, Mexico and Latin America were partially offset by a rise in the Asia-Pacific region.

“We are not satisfied with our top-line performance in 2013, which continues to be impacted by macroeconomic headwinds in a number of our markets,” the company said in a statement. “However, we remain focused on what we can impact and influence and on doing the right things to build a healthy business for the long term.”

The company said its merger with Corona brewer Grupo Modelo, which completed five months ago, was “going extremely well”, and had pushed up EBITDA and created cost synergies.