AB InBev to shed more assets as profits drop 41 per cent

Already known for its drastic cost-cutting measures, the merged beverage giant Aneuser Busch InBev is to go ahead with ''at least'' $7 billion in asset disposals and cut costs more quickly than expected as it tries to de-leverage its balance sheet, which carries $56.5 billion) in debt.

The group became the world's biggest brewer, but also the most highly leveraged, following InBev's $52 billion purchase of Anheuser Busch, in the biggest corporate takeover worldwide last year (See: InBev completes Anheuser Busch acquisition). This ended the US company's roughly 150 years of independence as a premier American brewer.

Announcing its financial results on Thursday, it said synergies from the acquisition would be higher than expected, reaching $2.25 billion instead of the $1.5 billion originally expected, as it reported a 5.2 per cent rise in group underlying sales growth for 2008.

AB InBev also announced that Carlos Brito, its chief executive, and most of its top management would not receive bonuses this year because they missed their financial targets in 2008.

''Management incentives must be totally aligned with shareholders' interests,'' the brewer said, adding management in future would be measured on how well they met targets linked to the company's net debt to earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBIDTA) ratio.

The brewer of Stella Artois, Beck's and now Budweiser did not comment on its asset disposals. Although it only needs to raise $2.8 billion in cash in the short term to pay down the remainder of a bridging loan by November, it reiterated that it would dispose of at least $7 billion in assets.