- Beer market is not healthy and likely to deteriorate
- Consumers drinking less alcohol, younger demographic drinking less, beer is losing share to other alcoholic beverages, etc.
- Global beer volumes used to grow lsd-msd but have been flat over the last 5 years
- Pricing power appears to be eroding, in particular in the US
- Two of the largest brewers believe beer has priced itself too aggressively in recent years and it’s getting to the point of being unable to take further price without accelerating volume declines
- Some US distributors also believe beer is priced too high vs wine and spirits and we may see flat to down pricing going forwards
- Cannabis will be incremental pressure
- Public alcohol companies are quick to point out that there is no conclusive data showing how it’s detrimental. However every private player and distributor we spoke with believes it will have a negative impact
- Cannabis is a psychoactive property with fewer calories and without some of the negative physical effects of alcohol
- Can replace after work-relaxation beer, replace some alcohol in social settings, etc.
- Cannabis legalization in of itself doesn’t appear to drive meaningful new demand overnight but over time legalization pressures cannabis pricing and cannabis beverages are beginning to come out which should drive substitution at a higher rate
- In the US by the time the big brewers are legally able to participate we expect state operators will have already saturated the market
- ABI is poorly positioned
- 81% of ABI’s volumes are mainstream or discount beer which are the worst performing segments as consumers trade up to premium beverages
- Craft beer appears to have hit a ceiling in the US at 13% of volume but globally it only has 3% penetration and continues to take share
- Business may be overoptimized
- Heineken has a 17% EBIT margin vs ABI at 32%
- Heard stories of sharing hotel rooms, shutting down elevators to conserve power, etc.
- Research suggests management highly focused on hitting short-term #’s and their subordinates may be cutting into the bone to try and hit their #’s
- Good chance of KHC type reinvestment needed
- Beer experts we spoke with do not believe the margin structure is sustainable over the long run, we heard similar pushback from packaged food experts about KHC prior to their margin reset
- Research suggested top 2000 employees are paid below market cash comp but provided stock related incentives which have historically been very valuable as the stock compounded
- With the stock no longer compounding ABI may need to materially increase cash compensation
- Operating trends are worse than headlines suggest
- ABI highlights their headline organic growth however that is not value creating organic growth because it is driven by a pass-through of EM inflation vs mix shift, pricing, or volumes
- We estimate price/mix in 2018 will be less than country weighted CPI
- Underlying margins appear to be declining
- SAB Miller synergies are in the final innings, excluding synergies it appears underlying EBITDA is organically declining
- Beer volumes have been weak for the last 5 years but ABI has benefited from synergies and input deflation
- Now with synergies running out, and the balance sheet too levered to do large deals, the next few years do not look promising as cost-cutters try to pivot a potentially over-optimized business to organic growth
- Going forwards if volumes are flattish, pricing is slightly below inflation, and they are out of cost cuts then EBIT does not grow in real terms
- ABI is trading at 17.5x 2019 earnings with nearly 5x of debt
- Manage to pull more levers
- Beer market improves
I do not hold a position with the issuer such as employment, directorship, or consultancy.
I and/or others I advise hold a material investment in the issuer's securities.
Misses street estimates