Bill Gates, through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Trust, has purchased 1.7 million shares of Bud Light parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev during the second quarter of this year, with the market value of his investment valued at $95 million. This move comes despite the beer giant’s share price falling nearly nine percent over the past six months and a steady decline in sales following a controversial ad campaign featuring transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney.
The ad campaign, which featured Mulvaney with a customized Bud Light can with his face on it, led to a nationwide backlash that reportedly wiped out $6 billion in market value. Despite this, Gates’ investment suggests a belief that the company can recover from this setback.
Morgan Stanley analyst Sarah Simon expressed optimism about the company’s prospects, particularly in emerging markets. She told TipRanks: “After one-off costs in 2023, we see profitability growth resuming in 2024, with strong cash flow growth driving leverage to the target 2.0x, allowing for both an increase in the payout ratio as well as the resumption of share buybacks from 2026. Current valuation fails to reflect this upside, in our view.”
However, Bud Light continues to struggle in the U.S. market, with NielsenIQ data showing Bud Light sales tumbling 15.9 percent on a dollar basis and down 20.1 percent on a volume basis year to date as of Aug. 19. Meanwhile, competitor Modelo saw sales increase by 10.3 percent and volume by 9.6 percent.
Gates’ investment in Anheuser-Busch InBev comes amidst ongoing controversy surrounding his personal life, including accusations of inappropriate behavior towards women and his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein. Gates has faced allegations of being an “office bully” and pursuing affairs with women in the office. It was also revealed that women seeking employment at his private office were asked sexually explicit questions during screenings conducted by Concentric Advisors. The firm defended its practices, stating that their protocols comply with all applicable laws and aim to uncover information that could potentially be used to compromise or blackmail individuals working closely with Gates.