Anheuser-Busch Guzzles Estimates

Earnings fizzed passed Wall Street's flat expectations at Anheuser-Busch ( BUD) Wednesday as the king of beers toasted a 7.4% jump in second-quarter earnings.

The brewing empire said it earned of $638 million, or 82 cents a share, for the quarter, up from $594 million, or 76 cents a share, a year earlier. Wall Street was expecting the company's earnings per share to stay flat at 76 cents.

The St. Louis-based company said revenue rose 5.6% to $4.85 billion from $4.6 billion. Analysts had forecast revenue of just $4.17 billion.

Domestic beer volume increased 2.2%, while the company's international beer volume rose 18.5%.

"Our domestic beer-volume momentum continues to be positive into the key summer selling season," said Anheuser-Busch. "We had the largest sales-to-retailers volume in June of any month in the company's history."

The company said its international beer segment, led by Grupo Modelo, and its entertainment segment are having "outstanding" years.

"Based on these positive factors we are optimistic concerning our sales and earnings outlook for 2006," Anheuser-Busch said.

The company also said its board voted to raise its quarterly dividend payments to 29.5 cents a share from 27 cents, continuing a 30-year string of annual dividend increases.

Shares of Anheuser-Busch recently were up 52 cents, or 1.1%, to $48.15.

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