updated 10/26/2005 4:22:24 PM ET 2005-10-26T20:22:24

Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc., the nation’s biggest brewer, said Wednesday its third-quarter profit fell 24 percent due to cost pressures, competition from other alcoholic drinks such as wines and spirits and a charge for a legal settlement.

The maker of Budweiser, Bud Light and other beers called its results disappointing and its shares sank nearly 3 percent to their lowest level in more than a year.

The company earned $518 million, or 66 cents per share, for the period ending Sept. 30, down from $684 million, or 85 cents per share, a year ago. Excluding a one-time litigation settlement with a beer wholesaler, the company said earnings would have declined 8.2 percent to $623 million, or 78 cents per share.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial expected earnings of 80 cents per share.

Gross sales before excise taxes rose to $4.69 billion from $4.68 billion a year ago. Net sales rose to $4.09 billion from $4.08 billion a year ago.

“We are disappointed in our sales and earnings results, but we are encouraged by improvement in our market share performance at the consumer level,” said Patrick Stokes, president and chief executive officer. “Both the company and the domestic beer industry have experienced volume declines and significant cost pressures.”

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