InBev names Brazilian as chief executive

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The Independent Online

The brewing giant InBev shook up its board yesterday and appointed the Brazilian Carlos Brito as chief executive to try to boost its worldwide presence with a focus on direct selling of beer.

Mr Brito had been tipped to replace John Brock as chief executive of the company behind Stella Artois, Beck's and Brahma beers, after his three-year contract was not renewed. Mr Brito, 45, who heads the group's North American operations, is a former chief of AmBev, the Brazilian brewer that merged with Belgium's Interbrew in 2004 to form InBev.

Peter Harf, an independent board member since 2002, will replace Pierre-Jean Everaert as chairman in May. M. Everaert will be honorary chairman. InBev also promoted Stefan Descheemaeker to run its Western European operations, replacing Stuart Gilliland who has left the company.

Analysts said the new team might find it tough to revive flagging beer sales in Western Europe where consumers are increasingly turning to other drinks. Marc Leemans, at Bank Degroof, said: "Brito has a good track record, but it's a completely different market in Europe. People are older here and not many young people are coming into beer drinking - they are going into wine and specialty beers."

The Belgian-Brazilian group is the world's biggest brewer by volume but lags behind its US rival Anheuser-Busch, the maker of Budweiser, in terms of profitability. With Western Europe languishing, Brazil has accounted for much of the group's growth this year.

Mr Brito was aggressive in grabbing a bigger slice of the market during his time as head of AmBev, according to M. Everaert, who said Mr Brito had been successful in Brazil in selling beer directly to bars rather than through wholesale distributors, as is the case in the group's other main markets, thereby generating high margins and lifting core earnings. "Yes, there is going to be a change," the outgoing chairman said. "This will be a new way of doing business in coming years."

M. Everaert said even after a long spending spree buying up brewers and brands, the company has not lost its appetite for making more acquisitions.