AB InBev CEO Carlos Brito, just moments before blowing the kudu horn during the listing ceremony at the JSE on Friday 15 January 2016 Picture: Timothy Bernard

London - Anheuser-Busch InBev’s fourth-quarter profit missed estimates as its two flagship brands both lost ground despite increased advertising and an improving US beer market, underlining the need for the brewer to complete its deal for SABMiller to tap new areas of growth.

Adjusted operating income rose 6.6 percent on an organic basis to $4.31 billion, the company said in a statement Thursday. Analysts expected a 9.2 percent gain. Sales to retailers in the US fell 1.1 percent, which sent profits in that region plummeting 7 percent as marketing costs rose. The shares fell as much as 3.6 percent in early Brussels trading.

Budweiser and Bud Light lost share in the US even as that market showed marginal improvement in the fourth quarter, with industry sales returning to growth. The brewer is seeking expansion via SABMiller, which is strong in Africa and Latin America. AB InBev has also acquired craft beer brands as demand for mainstream beer dries up.

Also read: AB InBev cancels $42.5bn of acquisition facilities

“It’s not where we want to be,” CFO Felipe Dutra said on a call with reporters, speaking about the company’s performance in the US.

The brewer expects an improvement in Bud Light thanks to new packaging and Super Bowl ads featuring actors Seth Rogen and Amy Schumer, he said. Sales and marketing investments are expected to grow between 8 percent and 12 percent this year, after a 9.4 percent boost in 2015.

The US beer market should improve this year after the industry’s sales to retailers rose marginally in the fourth quarter, the brewer said. Brazil will have a weak first quarter and full-year revenue there should rise by mid- to high-single digits this year. AB InBev also forecast it will outperform the market in China, where volume will remain under pressure.

Also read: SABMiller buoyed by LatAm, Africa

“We would say that these were slightly disappointing results,” James Edwardes Jones, an analyst at RBC, said in a note.

AB InBev repeated it expects to complete its acquisition of SABMiller in the second half of the year.