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This Bud’s No Longer for Wall Street

July 23, 2008

budweiser1.jpgIs it Last Call for Wall Street at Anheuser-Busch?

On Anheuser-Busch’s conference call Wednesday to discuss second-quarter earnings, the tone was more like a wake than the tailgate parties of old.

Well, previous calls never really had galloping Clydesdalessinging frogs or a hard-partying Bull Terrier. But quarter after quarter, investors and analysts from both the ”buy” and ”sell” sides would still dial in after the close of New York trading for the latest color on beer sales.

Wednesday’s get-together — likely the second-to-last one before the brewer gets swallowed by Belgian brewer InBev – was different. 

First, the earnings were released at 11:12 a.m. ET, (instead of the usual 2:30 p.m.), just as Wall Street’s beverage analysts were listening to PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi , on her conference call, discuss ways the company is changing its business to cope with the current economic uncertainty.

The Bud call started at noon, immediately following the Pepsi call.

While Chief Financial Officer W. Randy Baker said the teleconference was “earlier to accommodate the increased interest of European investors and analysts,” one U.S.-based analyst, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, guessed that the near overlap with Pepsi’s presentation was no coincidence.

“Structurally, they set it up so that they wouldn’t really have to talk. I understand why they did that,” said the analyst, adding that the context and timing of the call kept off a lot of analysts, who were likely tied up with Pepsi.

Gone was the typically long Q&A session with analysts including Morgan Stanley’s Bill Pecoriello, Stifel Nicolaus’s Mark Swartzberg, UBS’s Kaumil Gajrawala, Deutsche Bank’s Marc Greenberg, JP Morgan’s John Faucher and Goldman Sachs’ Judy Hong. Bryan Spillane from Banc of America and Anthony Bucalo from Credit Suisse lobbed the only questions from the usual suspects.

In their places were London-based analysts who cover InBev, such as Chris Pitcher of Redburn Partners and Philip Morrisey of Citigroup.  

“It was partially timing and partially like, ‘Hey guys, if you’re not going to make our lives easy, we’re going to go out and try to talk to our clients about a stock that matters now,” the analyst said. 

Edward Jones analyst Jack Russo, who said he was on the conference call but did not ask a question, told Reuters that timing wasn’t the only issue.

“I think a lot of people are pretty much assuming this deal is done, that the company is going to no longer be an independent company by the end of the year, so I think interest kind of trails off as a result of that.”

He noted that some people might have tuned in for an update on the status of the deal, but that they’ll probably have to listen to an InBev call for that.

InBev, or the soon-to-be-called Anheuser-Busch InBev, will release earnings on August 14. Let’s hope InBev CEO Carlos Brito changes its call time to make it more convenient for the U.S. investors.

(Photo: Reuters)     


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