updated 2/1/2006 4:00:16 PM ET 2006-02-01T21:00:16

Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc., the nation's biggest brewer, said Wednesday its fourth-quarter profit plunged 39.5 percent as its sales were virtually steady compared with a year ago.

The maker of Budweiser, Bud Light and other beers earned $201 million, or 26 cents per share, for the period ending Dec. 31, down from $332 million, or 42 cents per share, a year earlier.

Gross revenue rose to $3.882 billion from $3.880 billion a year ago. After excise taxes are deducted, net revenue was $3.365 billion versus $3.367 billion a year ago.

Analysts, on average, were looking for earnings of 27 cents per share, according to a Thomson Financial poll.

Anheuser-Busch said lower domestic beer revenue was mostly offset by higher sales for international beer, packaging and entertainment operations.

"We've had a challenging year in the domestic beer business and our 2005 sales and earnings per share were disappointing," said Patrick Stokes, president and chief executive. "However, as we move into 2006 we are encouraged with the progress of the company's initiatives to enhance beer volume and market share growth."

For the year, Anheuser-Busch reported net income of $1.8 billion, or $2.35 a share, versus $2.2 billion, or $2.77 a share, a year ago.

Total revenue rose to $17.25 billion, up from $17.16 billion the previous year. After excise taxes, net revenue was $15.04 billion, up from last year's $14.93 billion.

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