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This Bud’s for your . . . child’s name

Reports abound that actor Matthew McConaughey wants to name his unborn son “Bud,” after – you guessed it – Budweiser beer.

A source close to the actor said: “Matthew’s older brother Michael named his second son Miller Lyte because he loved the beer so much. And Matthew loved the name so much he really wants to name his son after his favorite beer. He is thinking of going for Bud after Budweiser beer.”

However, Brazilian model Camila, the boy’s mother, is less than impressed with his choice of name.

The source added: “Camila is pretty old-fashioned. She hates the name and won’t let Matthew push her into this.”

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A-B upbeat about 2008 outlook

Anheuser-Busch August A. Busch IV presented analysts with a positive outlook for 2008 despite the increasing price of production.

Busch told analysts at a conference in Boca Raton, Fla., that A-B is focused on raising U.S. beer sales and strengthening its core brands such as Budweiser, Bud Light, Natural Light and Busch beer.

The country’s biggest brewer plans to boost its total media spending by 10 percent this year. Together, Budweiser and Bud Light will get a 24 percent boost. Spending on digital media will jump by 55 percent this year.

“We believe we are adapting well to the changing landscape” of the U.S. beer industry, said Busch.

Busch also said A-B will change its exclusivity incentive, known to demand “100 percent mindshare.” The long-standing program was designed to entice beer distributors to focus only on Anheuser-Busch brands. He said the program’s current configuration may work against the brewer, because competing wholesalers were able to add more profitable beers. He did not give details of the planned changes.

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German beer sales down 2.9%

Germany’s beer consumption has dropped to the lowest level since the government began collecting statistics in 1993.

Beer consumption in Europe’s largest economy fell 3.7 percent (in 2007) to 88.5 million hectoliters, the lowest since the Federal Statistics office, based in Wiesbaden, started collecting figures excluding non-alcoholic beer in 1993, a report showed today.

“Beer consumption is dependent on the weather and also tends to peak when we have special events,” Marc-Oliver Huhnholz, a spokesman for the Brauer-Bund brewery association in Berlin, said in an interview. “Our industry hopes for a long, hot summer and that the German soccer team will do really well in the European soccer championship this year.”

Beer sales have also been declining in the past decade as more and more Germans switch to lighter or non-alcoholic beverages, the group said. German brewers sold 2.9 percent less beer last year, the biggest drop since 1998, the report said.

One story suggest that microbreweries and brewpubs could help reverse the trend.

Berlin’s Oliver Lemke, who owns four small breweries, said the overall slump reflects the destruction of small local breweries by big corporations.

“There used to be 100 breweries in this neighborhood alone,” Lemke said. “They died out in the 1970s with the trend toward mono-breweries. The big breweries – for example Warsteiner or Licher – said: ‘We’re only going to make one sort of beer, a premium pilsner, and we’ll market it nationwide.’ And that inevitably leads to a dead-end. At some point, even the world’s biggest idiot notices that there’s virtually no difference between a Warsteiner and Licher.”

The story has a familiar ring to it: “It’s difficult for independents to break through against the conglomerates. The big brewing companies control distribution networks and encourage pub owners to feature their products exclusively by offering loans, price rebates and free tapping and refrigeration systems, beer glasses and even ashtrays.”

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Carlsberg, Heineken finally get S&N

After more than three months of negotiations, Scottish & Newcastle agreed a takeover offer from European rivals Carlsberg and Heineken.

S&N, Britain’s largest brewing company, produces Newcastle Brown and many other brands, including Foster’s and Kronenbourg 1664 beer.

Carlsberg of Denmark and Heineken will divide Scottish & Newcastle’s assets between them and share the bill, with Carlsberg taking a slightly larger part. Heineken will obtain the British business, and Carlsberg will take full control of Russia’s largest brewer, which it owned with Scottish & Newcastle.

Analyst point out that Carlsberg’s interest in the Russian market – where it and S&N shared a partnership – was a driving force behind making the deal.

The takeover will give Heineken access to Britain’s cider market, which is growing 18.6%. It will also get Scottish & Newcastle’s businesses in Ireland, Portugal, Finland, Belgium, the United States and India.

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Carlsberg, Heineken move on Scottish & Newcastle

After three months of battles, Scottish & Newcastle has agreed to enter discussions that would result in Carlsberg and Heineken taking over the UK brewing giant.

The Times Online reports:

S&N agreed to open its books after the pair increased their bid for the third time to 800p a share, ending a three-month takeover stand-off.

The group’s chairman, Sir Brian Stewart, had fiercely held out against the Dutch and Danish suitors, but sources said the two sides entered talks this week.

Heineken and Carlsberg first approached S&N in October. S&N owns the Newcastle Brown, Kronenbourg and Strongbow brands, but the center of interest is Baltic Beverages Holding, the fast-growing Russian and Baltic brewer that S&N jointly controls with Carlsberg on a 50-50 basis.

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UK ban on cheap beer?

The Publican reports Prime Minister Gordon Brown may intervene to stop cheap supermarket deals on alcohol.

The issue has apparently hit home with Mr Brown, after Labour MP John Grogan was called by a senior adviser at 10 Downing Street to discuss his recent criticism of the retail giants.

Grogan had branded Tesco chief executive Terry Leahy “the godfather of British binge-drinking” during a Commons debate, and was asked by the adviser what he would like to see done to stop the deals.

Tesco hit back at Grogan’s comments, branding them “as offensive as they are inaccurate.”

Health minister Ben Bradshaw recently told the Commons the government would be “prepared to change the law” on below-cost selling depending on the findings of an independent review, due to report in April.

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A-B sees good demand; will raise prices

Anheuser-Busch will continue raising prices to counter a rise in the cost of ingredients, Chief Financial Officer W. Randolph Baker told a group of stock analysts at a conference in New York.

Baker hit several optimistic notes in his presentation, including an apparent increase in consumer interest for domestic beers. He said beer industry growth in 2007 has continued to exceed expectations, up 1.8% to date.

“We see the resurgence in interest in beer. With the momentum there, it’s likely you’re going to have strong demand for beer,” Baker said.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has in depth analysis of A-B’s standing the market and plans for the future. Some highlights:

– The top priority is boosting Bud Light, the company’s best-selling brew. The beer has “under­performed” this year.

– Bud Light and Budweiser will get an extra $70 million in television ad support next year.

– A new Michelob campaign will account for another $30 million.

– Fewer brands will be advertised on television.

– The average A-B distributor now handles 147 brands, more than double from five years ago.

– Analysts said the nearly-flat sales volumes for A-B’s main brands — even as the overall industry is growing at a strong clip — is a cause for worry. Bud Light, for one, is losing market share to Coors Light and its “cold” marketing message, said analyst Mark Swartzberg of Stifel, Nicolaus & Co.

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Beer sales in British pubs hit 70-year low

The British Beer and Pub Association reports beer sales in pubs have slumped to their lowest level since the 1930s.

The facts:

– Total beer sales – in pubs, off licences and supermarkets – have fallen from 12 billion pints a year in 1979 to 9.5 billion in 2007, according to BBPA figures.

– Pubs have been particularly affected. Some 29 million pints were sold each day in pubs 28 years ago, compared with 15 million pints a day this year.

– Tax on beer has increased by 27% since 1997 – compared to 16% for wine, 3% for spirits and 11% for cider.

– The BBPA also said the smoking ban had had an effect, with a 7% drop in pub beer sales this year alone.

The BBPA has called for a freeze on beer taxes, and the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) offers its support.

A spokesman said: “It is no coincidence that Britain has the highest level of excise duty in the EU and sales in the on-trade are falling, and yet binge-drinking is on the increase as supermarkets cynically exploit the consumer by offering cut-price booze to drink at home. A pub is the proper place to enjoy a drink in a responsible and regulated atmosphere.”

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SABMiller set to acquire Grolsch

SABMiller plans to buy Royal Grolsch for $1.2 billion, with plans to expand sales of the 392-year-old Dutch beer brand in Latin America and South Africa.

Grolsch accepted a bid – subject to shareholder approval in January – of 48.25 euros a share in cash, London-based SABMiller said. That’s a premium of 79% over its previous closing price.

“The deal is expensive,”‘ said Marcel Hooijmaijers, an analyst at Landsbanki Kepler in Amsterdam. Buying Grolsch is “smart”‘ because SABMiller “completes its premium brand portfolio with a northern European brand,” he said.

“We see significant potential for the brand across Africa and Latin America where the premium sector is still in its infancy,”‘ Malcolm Wyman, SABMiller’s chief financial officer, said on a conference call.

Last month Miller agreed to combine its U.S. operations with Molson Coors Brewing Co.

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Pumpkin beers: Funny, silly, and better than pie

Hops shortages. Malt shortages. What’s next?

Maybe pumpkin shortages.

Lew Bryson, writing for Portfolio.com, and Lauren Clark in the Kansas City Star have everything you wanted to know about pumpkin beers but were afraid to ask.

Brewers literally can’t make enough.

James Ottolini of Schlafly Beer gives Clark his theory why.

“They’re fun. Halloween is one of those holidays that are fun. Adults might have stopped going door-to-door for candy, but we never stopped dressing up. As we grow old, we lose some of the playfulness and magical thinking we had as kids. Halloween gives you a permission slip to be funny and silly.”

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German beer sales decline resumes

German beer sales dropped dramatically in the third quarter, falling 7.2% compared to the summer of 2006.

Officials blamed poor weather and the fact sales were being compared to 2006, when Germany hosted the World Cup.

Year-on-year, sales of beer are estimated to have been around 2.3% lower for the first nine months of 2007. German beer sales have been declining for nearly 20 years. Per capita beer consumption was in the 150-155 liter range in the mid 1980s, compared to 116 in 2006.

Poor weather, keeping drinkers out of beer gardens, has made this year particularly difficult.

“The god of weather is still one of the best beer salesmen,” said Peter Hahn, head of the Brewers’ Federation.

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Lower beer prices? Is this possible?

Observers predict beer prices in the UK will tumble between now and the holidays.

They predict store giants could be selling popular lagers for as little as 30p a pint.

Supermarkets reportedly have warehouses piled high with booze after the summer storms put a stop to barbecues and garden parties.

Top selling drinks such as Stella Artois and Carlsberg dropped to 35p a pint last Christmas, compared to 45p in 2004.

Before you start packing your bags for a beer buying trip you might compare the price of he dollar to the pound.

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WSJ on global beer consolidation

The Wall Street Journal uses the news that Carlsberg and Heineken have formed a consortium to bid for the United Kingdom’s best-selling brewer, Scottish & Newcastle, as an opportunity to explain “Why Consolidation Storm Is Brewing in Beer Industry.

The maneuvers, coming about 2½ years after the most recent wave of beer-industry consolidation, are a reaction to shifts in beer-drinking habits across the globe. In Western Europe and the U.S., beer sales growth is sluggish amid increasing competition from wine and spirits.

Of course the story mentions concerns about the rising cost of ingredients, emphasizing that price and market share are at least as important to the large companies as the beers they brew.

The WSJ points out the S&N takeover is far from a done deal and other companies could enter bids.

Another possible suitor for S&N is Anheuser-Busch, the world’s third-largest brewer by volume. The St. Louis-based beer maker is heavily dependent on the U.S. market and may be attracted to the opportunity to gain a big stake in Russia or the U.K. W. Randolph Baker, Anheuser’s chief financial officer, declined to comment.

Jean-Francois van Boxmeer of Heineken makes the difference between being a giant brewing company and a small-batch brewer quite evident when he says that it takes so much capital that it isn’t worth the expense being in many of the world’s markets unless your company is either the No. 1 or No. 2 player.

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Heineken, Carlsburg may bid for Scottish & Newcastle

Scottish & Newcastle stock surged Wednesday after two of its European competitors said they’re considering a takeover bid. Carlsberg and Heineken said they were in talks regarding the formation of a consortium to launch a bid for the UK’s largest brewer.

The companies said that it was “currently intended that Carlsberg will ultimately acquire Scottish & Newcastle’s interest in Baltic
Beverage Holdings, France and Greece, and that Heineken will ultimately assume control of Scottish & Newcastle’s business in the UK and other European markets.”

Edinburgh-based Scottish & Newcastle’s top brands include Foster’s, Kronenbourg 1664 and Newcastle Brown Ale, while Heineken’s main brands are Heineken and Amstel and Carlsberg is known for its Carlsberg beer.

If closed the deal would further the ongoing consolidation among the world’s largest brewers. Last week Moslon Coors and SABMiller announced plans to combine their U.S. operations.

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The legend of Miller Chill grows

Brew Blog, sponsored by Miller Brewing, reports “Anheuser-Busch appears set on creating a brand to fight Miller Chill, according to Beer Business Daily.”

BBD reports that A-B appears to be conducting Internet market research surveys to gauge consumer interest in brands with Latin influences. These bear more than passing resemblances to Miller Chill.

There’s no disputing Chill’s success:

Miller hopes to sell 400,000 barrels of Chill in its first year. That would put Chill on roughly the same sales level as Foster’s Lager, Miller’s biggest import.

In supermarkets, Chill is outselling such established brands as Dos Equis, Michelob Light, Heineken Light, Beck’s, Blue Moon White, Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Rolling Rock, according to data from AC Nielsen. Supermarkets account for around 20% of U.S. beer sales.

Meanwhile, A-B already has Bud and Bud Light Chelada in the marketplace.