A-B TO BUY BACK 100MM SHARES

If you’ve ever harbored doubts that this is a blue chip company, this ought to allay those fears. A-B’s board approved a new 100-million stock repurchase program to help drive up that stock price. The program follows a similar 100-million share repurchase program back in Feb 2000 which is nearly done. This means A-B will buy up and retire an astounding 12% of outstanding stock.

SAYS PAT STOKES: “Share repurchasing is an integral part of Anheuser-Busch’s long- standing program to enhance shareholder value through the efficient utilization of its substantial cash flow from operations. Our first priority for cash flow is to reinvest in our core business to increase profits and return on investment. Our second priority is to return cash to shareholders through increased dividends and share repurchases. In 2002, Anheuser-Busch returned more than $2.6 billion to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases, while maintaining its A1/A+ credit ratings.” That quote sounds like Warren Buffet. So value does matter in the beer business, which is good news because it keeps brewers from starting price wars.

EARNINGS GROWTH TO BE DOUBLE DIGIT LONG TERM, SAYS A-B. A-B has been repurchasing 3 to 4% of outstanding common stock annually in recent years. A-B continues to target 12% earnings per share growth for 2003 and annual double-digit earnings per share growth over the long term.

COORS TO INTRO NEW LABELS, OFFER SWEEPS TO MALOOF’S NEW CASINO. Coors will intro three interactive labels for Original. One will trivia questions on the label to get consumers involved with the brand, a second label will be a guy’s night out theme with a peel sweepstakes to win a weekend at the Las Vegas Palms (which is owned by Coors distributor Maloof), and an NFL theme. All have POS support as well.

READERS RESPOND…

REGARDING OSCAR ADS: “I have to respond and disagree to today’s comment that AB running humorous ads during the war is tasteless. We must go on with our daily lives as much as possible during these times. Humor is good medicine for a country in war, [so] I don’t see how you can say it is tasteless to try to make someone laugh during a 30 or 60 second spot.” Ed Note: I agree completely. I was suggesting that others wouldn’t.

REGARDING AD BACKLASH: “I will agree with the criticism of Miller ads having backlash for all of the industry, we have enough anti-ad zealots out for our throats, this is ammunition they are looking for. I’m sorry to see Miller and Coors start the sex campaigns of past. I can’t argue with the fact that a beautiful woman can’t hurt brand recognition but they are putting women in the old bad light of media hell.” Ed. Note: I’ll buy that.

REGARDING MILLER ADS SHOWN AT CONFERENCE: “Just to let you know, not everyone was drunk [at the Miller meeting]. I wasn’t very impressed at all!…… Contrast with the recent Coors meeting. The Miller guys have an attitude of defeat. The Coors guys want to win!” Ed. Note: More on Coors meeting next week.

REGARDING GARFIELD CRITICISM: “You should send this column to Bob Garfield…I can’t stop laughing.”

REGARDING PERSNICKETY EDITOR: “Brutal issue, Harry. Who didn’t you slam?” Ed. Note: Sometimes your editor gets crabby during allergy season.

MILLER ADS START BACK UP TODAY, with new ad to go into rotation during the college basketball tourney on CBS.

Tomorrow, live from Chicago, Harry