Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest brewer, reported a surprise increase in third-quarter beer sales today, although profits dipped and it scrapped its interim dividend.
The maker of Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona lagers gave no specific guidance for 2020.
But it said it expected the second half of the year to be better than the first, albeit with considerable uncertainty due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Overall beer and soft drink volumes rose by 1.9% in the months from June to September after a 17% slide in the second quarter to drive revenue up 4%. This compared to consensus expectations of a 4% decline.
The clear outperformer was Brazil, the company's second biggest market, where beer sales shot up 25% from a year earlier with government subsidies propping up consumer demand for its premium and new beers.
Volumes and profits also grew in its largest market, the US, as its Michelob Ultra lager and hard seltzers offset a decline of mainstream brands to increase its share of national beer sales.
The Belgium-based company also reported growth in Mexico, Europe and China, but suffered declines in Colombia, where stay-at-home restrictions only eased in August, and South Africa, where alcohol sales were banned for a month.
Overall profits dipped because the pandemic made consumers shift from drinking out to purchasing in stores.
This increased costs because the company needed to produce and ship more cans and bottles and fewer of the cheaper kegs that go to bars and restaurants.
Still, earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation only dipped by 0.8%, a far milder decline than the average forecast of a 9.3% drop in a company-compiled poll. EBITDA fell by a third in the second quarter.
The company said uncertainty and market volatility meant it would not pay an interim dividend this year after a payout of €0.80 a share in 2019.
Earlier this year, it also halved its final dividend for 2019 to €0.50.