) to buy from hold.
Analyst Caroline Levy upgraded based on talks with industry contacts. Levy says pricing remains strong, and she expects a new round of price increases in the fall. Levy says she thinks second quarter volume growth is likely slightly below plan due to the timing of the holidays, but she thinks sales in the last few weeks are very strong.
Levy also thinks the company will achieve or beat her 2.5% sales-to-retail growth estimate. She expects Anheuser-Busch to launch Michelob Ultra, a new low-carbohydrate beer, in September. She also thinks the declining capital expenditure needs, accelerating free cash flow and higher returns will be highly valued in the current market.
She sees $2.21 2002 earnings per share, and $2.47 EPS for 2003. Levy has a $56 target.