InBev appoints new chief executive and chairman

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InBev, the world’s leading brewer by volume, has named Brazilian Carlos Brito as chief executive as it puts greater emphasis on direct selling of beer to boost its sales volume.

Peter Harf will become chairman of the maker of Stella Artois, Beck’s and Brahma beers from May, when the current chairman, Pierre Jean Everaert, moves to become honorary chairman.

Mr Brito has been extremely aggressive in picking up market share during his term as chief executive of AmBev, the Brazilian brewer that merged with Belgium’s Interbrew to create InBev, Mr Everaert told reporters on a conference call. Brazil has provided much of the group’s recent growth.

“He has quite a bit of experience in logistics and in direct sales force as opposed to going through wholesale,” Mr Everaert said.

But Bank Degroof analyst Marc Leemans told Reuters: “Brito has a good track record ... but it’s a completely different market in Europe. It’s a different culture... People are older here and not many young people are coming into beer drinking - they are going more to wine and specialty beers.”

Mr Brito replaces American John Brock, whose three-year contract has already expired.

Mr Everaert said Mr Brito has been successful in Brazil in selling beer directly to bars rather than through wholesale distributors as is the case in its other main markets, generating high margins and lifting core earnings.

“Yes, there is going to be a change,” Mr Everaert said. “This will be a new way of doing business in coming years.”

InBev was still interested in more acquisitions if they reinforce its position in its main markets, he said. “We have not lost our appetite for acquisitions and we have the financial capacity to do so.”

The newly merged group is seeking to overtake US rival Anheuser-Busch as the most profitable brewer in the world. Inbev had sales of €8.57bn ($10.2bn) in 2004, and in the third quarter of 2005 achieved a core profit margin of 30.3 per cent.

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