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reported third-quarter earnings in line with analysts' expectations.

The St. Louis-based brewer reported third-quarter earnings of $514.5 million, or 56 cents a share, in line with the 18-analyst

First Call/Thomson Financial

consensus estimate. The company earned $461.5 million, or 49 cents a share, for the same period a year ago.

Gross sales, excluding excise taxes, rose to $3.94 billion from $3.77 billion. The company also said it expects earnings per share growth of about 15% for 2000 and added that "longer term, we are confident in our ability to consistently achieve our double-digit earnings per share growth objective with a 12% target for 2001."