Why Anheuser-Busch InBev may cut its generous dividend
The Belgian beermaker pays its shareholders way more than the industry average, yet its $109bn debt is much higher. This is clearly unsustainable
Anheuser-Busch InBev is the most generous big food-and-beverage company in the world when it comes to paying cash out to shareholders. That largess could end as soon as next week. The reason? The Belgian beermaker is the most indebted company in the industry, in both absolute terms and relative to earnings. Some analysts see the company slashing its dividend so it can use the cash to pay down its $109bn mountain of debt, much of which it took on for the blockbuster acquisition of SABMiller in 2016.
So AB InBev’s high debt level is not new. What is new is that the company’s cash flow has been hurt by the plunge in emerging-market currencies, which also has sent its share price lower. The decision by Moody’s Investors Service on October 1 to place the company’s debt rating on review for a possible downgrade boosts the chances of a dividend cut, according to Paul Steegers of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, potentially when AB InBev releases earnings October 25. “AB InBev’s debt st...