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Ambev Stock Might Be the Best Beer Bet Heading into 2020

Will Ashworth

Back in April, I featured Brazilian beer company Ambev (NYSE:ABEV) in an article about the best large-cap stocks to own under $10. As I write this, Ambev stock is up 4.5%.

Ambev Stock Might Be the Best Beer Bet Heading into 2020 

Source: Daniel Spiess via Flickr

The two other stocks recommended: Ford (NYSE:F) is down 1.6% and Sirius XM (NYSE:SIRI) is up 13.7%. Over the same five months, the S&P 500 is up 2.5%, an indication that low-priced stocks did well over the summer.

As for Anheuser-Busch (NYSE:BUD), who owns more than 60% of ABEV stock is up 6.9% over the same period, 240 basis points higher than its Brazilian subsidiary. However, year to date it’s up 45.0% including dividends through Sept. 11, 2.4 times Ambev’s total return for the year. 

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With three-and-a-half months left in 2019, I’m wondering if ABEV, BUD, or some other beer stock is the best bet heading into 2020. 

Ambev Stock is the Best Bet

Ambev’s 15-year total annual return is quite good, at 11.2%. That trails both its brewing peers and the Brazilian market at 13.5%. However, the entire U.S. market over this period could only muster a total return of 9.3%.

My InvestorPlace colleague Vince Martin recently highlighted in an article in late August that Ambev has a much stronger balance sheet than its parent and is growing its normalized EBITDA on an organic basis at more than 10% per year.   

In the first six months of 2019, Ambev’s revenues increased by 7.4%. Three of its operating segments: Brazil, Central America and the Caribbean, and Canada delivered growth while only the company’s South American division (excluding Brazil) experienced declining sales. 

South America might be experiencing a craft beer boom but Ambev’s holding its own in a very competitive market. It’s also important to remember that Ambev also makes non-alcoholic beverage products. In the first six months of 2019, it grew this segment by 19.6%, accounting for 15% of Ambev’s overall revenues. 

Although Ambev has only paid an eight-cent dividend so far in 2019, its goal is to deliver an average annual yield of 5%. Currently, its forward dividend yield is 5.2%. 

Over the long haul, buying ABEV stock under $5 should deliver above-average results, including the dividends

Bud’s the Call

Even though Budweiser might have a ton of debt on its balance sheet (its net debt at the end of June was $104.2 billion) it still managed to generate $9.1 billion in free cash flow in the first six months of the year.

On an annualized basis over the trailing 12 months, BUD had $11.5 billion in free cash flow, $54.1 billion in revenue, and a free cash flow margin of 21.1%. This means it’s generating 21 cents of free cash flow for every $1 of revenue.

Anheuser-Busch said to be reviving its IPO plans for its Asian business, a move that’s expected to raise $5 billion and give it additional liquidity on the remainder of its ownership stake, the company’s giving itself financial flexibility to pay down debt, repurchase shares, buy a cannabis company, or countless other things it could do with the funds. 

The point is, Anheuser-Busch is the largest beer company in the world. Investors shouldn’t have a problem with a dividend yield of 3.5% given the appreciation it’s experienced so far in 2019.    

The Bottom Line on Ambev Stock

If you’re not sure which beer company to back, a good alternative would be to buy a thematic portfolio, either through an ETF, mutual fund, or third-party provider such as Motif Investing. 

Motif currently has a portfolio called “Take a Shot” that invests in makers of alcoholic beverages including BUD and ABEV, which account for 19.4% and 16.6% of the portfolio, respectively. Beer stocks account for 46.3% of the portfolio with wine and spirits, accounting for the rest.

Over the past year, it’s generated a return of 8.6%, better than both the S&P 500 and the Invesco Dynamic Food & Beverage ETF (NYSEARCA:PBJ). 

At the time of this writing Will Ashworth did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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