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said first-quarter earnings rose almost 12% amid strong demand in the U.S. beer market.

The maker of Budweiser, Bud Light and Michelob said quarterly profit rose to $484 million, or 57 cents a share, from $456 million, or 51 cents a share, in the year-ago period. The result fell within analysts' estimates, according to Thomson First Call.

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Sales rose almost 5% to $3.28 billion from $3.14 billion.

Patrick Stokes, president and chief executive officer, said the company remains confident that it will achieve a 12% earnings-per-share growth in its full-year 2003 results.

The company also said that James J. Forese, former chairman of the board of IKON Office Solutions, a provider of business-to-business services, is joining its board of directors.

Shares of Anheuser-Busch were up 2% at $49.09 in early trading.