Bud Light’s parent company is having a miserable year. But there’s at least one prominent investor who believes in Anheuser-Busch: Bill Gates’ foundation trust.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Trust last quarter bought 1.7 million shares of Anheuser-Busch, valued at around $95 million, according to a regulatory filing, signaling that Gates has confidence in the beer company that has been dealing with a steep sales slump of one of its biggest beers.
Gates’ foundation trust bought the stock around the time A-B reported earnings that fully encompassed the fallout from Bud Light’s partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney. Its decision to send a customized can to her sparked a transphobic backlash and alienated some of the company’s core customer base. The company’s subsequent response then angered members of the LGBTQ community.
But Gates’ trust has lost money on his investment so far: A-B’s stock is down nearly 2% since the purchase. The stock is down about 7% for the year.
Last month, A-B said that its US revenue fell 10% in the second quarter, hampered by falling Bud Light sales.
The company’s sales to US retailers declined by 14%, underperforming the wider beer industry, primarily due to the decline in the volume of Bud Light it sold. Revenue fell $395 million in North America during the period, compared to the same time a year ago. That figure included sales in Canada, where revenue rose, suggesting the slump was isolated to the United States.
A few weeks later, Modelo overtook Bud Light in sales at grocery and beer stores, according to NIQ data, marking the first time Modelo has ever beaten Bud Light on a year-to-date basis. However, the difference is slim with Modelo holding 8.34% share of dollars spent on beer vs. 8.28% for Bud Light through August 12.
In July, A-B also announced layoffs within its corporate ranks, affecting about “less than 2%” (or about 380 positions) within its US employee population.
Gates, who has previously admitted that he’s “not a big beer drinker,” has bought other beer brands too, through his trust. Earlier this year, the foundation also bought nearly $1 billion worth of shares of Heineken Holding, the parent company of the Dutch beer.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the investor. It is The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Trust.