A-B InBev Cuts Jobs Amid Restructuring

Layoffs include several VPs in c-store, grocery area

ST. LOUIS -- Anheuser-Busch InBev NV's U.S. division cut about 90 jobs in its sales division late last week, including several vice presidents, and it plans about 350 other layoffs in the coming months as part of a restructuring, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal. The jobs eliminated included those of several vice presidents who work closely with large retail customers in the grocery and convenience store segments, according to one of the people familiar with the restructuring.

The world's largest beer maker by sales intends to save about $90 [image-nocss] million annually through job reductions linked to the reorganization of its sales and marketing departments and company-owned distributorships, one of the people familiar with A-B InBev's plan told the newspaper.

The maker of Beck's and Bud Light, based in Leuven, Belgium, said that it would restructure its U.S. operations, which are based in St. Louis, but declined to reveal how many jobs it would cut.

Jim Brickey, vice president for people at the company's U.S. division, said in a statement cited by the Journal that A-B InBev had eliminated "a small number of salaried sales employees in St. Louis and other locations."

He added, "These are always difficult decisions to make. As an ongoing practice, we assess our resources to assure they reflect our current business strategies and needs that will drive long-term growth."

Dave Peacock, president of A-B InBev's U.S. arm, said in an internal memorandum last week cited by the paper that the "moves are designed to simplify our business and reflect our focus on the consumer." He said changes would begin this week and mostly be completed by mid-year.

He told the paper that the restructuring is part of the company's ongoing efforts "to reduce costs and grow the top line."

Peacock said the restructuring, while broad, would not affect many areas of the company. It also will result in promotions for some staffers.

He said the changes are not linked to recent sales-volume declines for big brands including Bud Light and Budweiser, but instead are part of a focus on long-term growth.

Since InBev NV acquired Anheuser-Busch Cos. in 2008, creating one of the world's largest consumer-products companies, the beer maker has shed more than 1,400 of its U.S. employees, revamped its compensation system and demanded that vendors wait as long as 120 days to be paid for products or services, said the report.

A-B, which controls nearly half of all U.S. beer sales, recently hired consulting firm Accenture to help it identify ways to be more efficient, said the report. The brewer has generated robust profit over the past year, but is grappling with declining sales for big beer brands such as Bud Light and Budweiser, the report added.

The company said in an internal memorandum last week that it will revamp its brand marketing group to have more employees focused on its major beer products. The brewer also said it will add three new regional sales officesin St. Louis, Denver and Charlotte, N.C.to its five existing offices, to allow regional managers to spend more time with distributors and retailers. A-B also will integrate the sales departments of its company-owned distributors into the brewer's sales division.

InBev NV bought Anheuser-Busch Cos. in 2008 to form one of the world's largest consumer-products companies. The brewer since has eliminated at least 1,500 U.S. jobs, revamped its compensation system and pared spending on advertising for some brands, among other changes, the report said.

In late January, the Journal reported that A-B InBev tapped Bob Golden, a veteran of its U.S. operations, as global head of mergers and acquisitions.

Golden has moved to New York from St. Louis, highlighting the importance of the brewing giant's nascent New York City office and a power shift away from historical operations in Belgium and St. Louis, said the report.

CEO Carlos Brito and CFO Felipe Dutra also now call New York their home base, although they travel frequently and the company maintains its headquarters in Belgium.

Golden, 49, formerly vice president for acquisitions and development at the company's U.S. unit, was promoted to vice president of mergers and acquisitions for the global company effective January 1. Golden replaced Pedro Earp, a native of Brazil, who moved back to his home country to run the marketing behind Skol, one of the brewer's leading beer brands.

Golden is joining a New York office that opened in September and has about 100 employees. The company disclosed plans for the office shortly after the InBev-Anheuser deal, saying it would "better support the needs of the combined global organization." The United States is the company's largest market, accounting for more than 40% of its annual earnings, the report said.