Top story

The world’s largest brewer AB InBev grew first quarter revenues despite a dip in volumes and ongoing struggles in the US.

The Budweiser brewer posted top-line growth of 2.6% in the first three months of 2024, with revenue growth in approximately 75% of its markets.

Headline growth was driven by revenue per hectolitre growth of 3.3% from ongoing premiumisation and revenue management initiatives.

Volumes declined by 0.6%, as growth in its Middle Americas, South America, Africa and Europe regions was offset by performance in APAC and North America.

Own beer volumes were down by 1.3% and non-beer volumes were up by 3.5%.

North America continues to struggle amid a consumer boycott related to controversy over a marketing campaign, with sales in the region down 11.1% in the quarter.

In contrast, sales in EMEA were up 5.4%, Asia Pacific up 4.8% and Central America up 4.2%.

The group saw a 6.7% increase in combined revenues of its ‘megabrands’, led by Corona, which grew by 15.5% outside of its home market.

First quarter EBITDA increased by 5.4%, with overhead management enabling increased sales and marketing investments in the group’s brands and EBITDA margin expansion of 90bps.

For the full year it expects EBITDA to grow in line with its medium-term outlook of between 4%-8%.

“The strength of the beer category, our diversified global footprint and the continued momentum of our megabrands delivered another quarter of broad-based top and bottom-line growth,” said CEO Michel Doukeris.

“We are encouraged by our results to start the year, and the consistent execution by our teams and partners reinforces our confidence in delivering on our 2024 growth ambitions.”

AB InBev shares are up 4.5% on the news to €59.06.

Morning update

German consumer group Henkel has delivered “strong” organic sales growth in the first quarter on pricing gains.

In the first three months of the year the Persil owner saw group sales of around €5.3bn, representing organic sales growth of 3%.

The increase was driven by a positive price development in both business units.

Volume development at group level, which is still being impacted by the portfolio measures in the consumer brands business unit, showed a further sequential improvement compared to the fourth quarter of 2023.

Headline sales were down 5.2% compared to the prior-year quarter – predominantly due to the sale of the business activities in Russia and negative foreign exchange effects.

In the consumer brands business unit, sales in the first quarter of 2024 were down 6% to €2.6bn.

However, organically (adjusted for foreign exchange and acquisitions/divestments), sales increased by 5.2%, as pricing in the business unit remained very strong compared to the first quarter of 2023 and volumes declined slightly.

“We had a very good start to the year. In addition, we were able to close the acquisitions of Seal for Life Industries and Vidal Sassoon in China faster than anticipated and this will thus further strengthen our businesses,” said Carsten Knobel, CEO of Henkel.

“In light of these developments, we significantly raised our sales and earnings outlook for 2024 last week. This demonstrates we have a clear strategy which we are executing on stringently. We deliver on what we have promised. And we are on the right track for further profitable growth.”

Global grocery giant Ahold Delhaize has reported a “solid” start to the year and reiterated its full year outlook.

It said its brands continued to deliver value for its customers in the first quarter despite continued economic headwinds.

The group said it is working hard to offset inflation and ensure healthy food remains affordable for customers, while it is starting to see the benefits from structural changes in its business related to restructuring in Belgium and cost-saving initiatives.

First quarter net sales were €21.7bn, up 1.3% at constant exchange rates and up 0.4% at actual exchange rates.

First quarter comparable sales excluding petrol increased by 1.6% for the group, with an increase of 0.8% in the US and an increase of 2.8% in Europe.

Net consumer online sales decreased by 1% in Q1 at constant exchange rates, negatively impacted by 5.7 percentage points due to the divestment of FreshDirect.

Q1 underlying operating margin was 4%, in line with the prior year as improvements in European performance were offset by modest declines in the US.

The company reiterated its 2024 full year outlook, including underlying operating margin of over 4%.

Frans Muller, president and CEO of Ahold Delhaize, commented: “I am pleased to report a stable first quarter, placing us well on track to reach our goals and aspirations for the year. The external environment remained challenging, similar to the second half of 2023. Our brands have been very active during the quarter in delivering great value, quality and savings to customers, creatively using the full spectrum of their own-brand assortments and omnichannel toolkits.

“Given the solid start to the year, we reconfirm our guidance for 2024. It is an important year for our company, as we pivot to our refreshed strategy, which we are very much looking forward to unveiling on 23 May. With our strong market positions, our financial strength and the great foundational work we have carried out over the last few years, I am confident we have a great starting point and strong plans for our next phase of growth.”

On the markets this morning, the FTSE 100 is up another 0.5% to 8,352.9pts.

Risers so far today include Domino’s Pizza group, up 2.3% to 327p, WH Smith, up 2.1% to 1,117p and DS Smith, up 2% to 365.1p.

Fallers include Hilton Food Group, down 1.1% to 914.5p, Just Eat, down 0.9% to 1,148p and Premier Foods, down 0.6% to 164p.

Yesterday in the City

The FTSE 100 set another new closing price record, rising 1.2% after the bank holiday to 8,313.7pts.

The day’s risers included Nichols, up 2.7% to 980p, Tate & Lyle, up 2.7% to 672.5p, Coca-Cola HBC, up 2.4% to 2,676p, Premier Foods, up 2.2% to 165p, Tesco, up 2% to 304.3p and Domino’s Pizza Group, up 1.9% to 319.6p.

Fallers included PZ Cussons, down 3.6% to 101.4p, Kerry Group, down 2.8% to €80.40, Just Eat, down 2.7% to 1,158p, Naked Wines, down 2.2% to 52.4p and Fever-Tree, down 1.7% to 1,137p.