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    InBev Stock Hits Three-Year High

    Beer sales increased 5.5 percent in the first half of the year with robust growth coming from Latin American markets.

    InBev, world's biggest brewer by volume, increased first-half beer sales by 5.5 percent as Latin America's robust growth offset a drop in more mature markets, sending its stock to a three-year high, according to a Reuter’s report. The Belgian firm, which has Stella Artois among its wide range of brands, also said it is set to deliver "solid" results for the year.
    "Despite challenging trading conditions in some markets, operational performance in the first half was in line with our plan to deliver solid volume and EBITDA performance for the year," the company said in a prepared statement.
    InBev has not given a forecast for the year but has set a 30-percent EBITDA margin target by 2007. After a series of acquisitions, the biggest one being Brazil's Companhia de Bebidas das Americas, it has cut costs to meet that target.
    InBev's underlying beer sales totaled 89.1 million hectoliters in the first half, slightly lower than an average forecast of 91 million hectoliters given by analysts polled by Reuters.

    Described as "internal", the volume figure excludes recent acquisitions and other items but it includes AmBev, which InBev bought last year to become the world's biggest brewer. Although InBev bought AmBev last year, the figures also assume it was part of the brewer for the first half of last year to make comparisons possible.

    Total volume sales, which include AmBev's soft drinks business, reached 104.2 million hectoliters for the period. AmBev will publish its own set of figures later on Thursday.

    At 12.9 percent, Latin America, AmBev's home market, had the strongest underlying beer volume sales growth.
    "In Brazil, beer market share improved 2 percentage points over the first half of 2004, reaching 68.3 percent on the back of 13.3 percent volume growth," InBev said.

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