(New throughout, adds details, background, comments from CEO and analyst, updates share price)
By Gabriel Araujo
SAO PAULO, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Shares in Brazilian brewer Ambev SA soared on Thursday after it reported a quarterly net profit of 3.71 billion reais ($660.89 million), up 57.4% from a year earlier, as the reopening of bars and restaurants drove sales higher.
Chief Executive Jean Jereissati said during a conference call that he was confident Ambev's earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) will be back at 2019 levels this year, or maybe even higher, despite expectations that a weakening real and higher commodities prices should keep pressure on results in the fourth quarter.
Ambev's shares were up 7.5% to 16.35 reais in afternoon trading, making it the top gainer in the Bovespa index, as investors and analysts welcomed the company's quarterly figures.
Ambev, part of Belgium's Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, said it has recorded its highest volumes ever for a third quarter, with a 7.7% organic rise year-on-year to 45.7 million hectoliters.
The company also highlighted a 20.8% annual rise in its net revenue to 18.49 billion reais, while adjusted EBITDA grew 7.8% to 5.47 billion reais.
Credit Suisse analysts praised Ambev's results, saying the firm has notched a stellar performance with volumes at an all-time high, in a research note titled, "They did not know it was impossible so they did it".
Analysts at Bank of America said the results came in stronger than expected, buoyed by the reopening of the economy and share gains. They cautioned, however, that there are still some relevant headwinds projected for 2022.
"While the short-term scenario for demand is constructive, we see a deterioration of the consumption environment in 2022 and competition picking up in Brazil, with new capacities coming online in the next few years, while FOREX volatility and high costs should remain headwinds," BofA said. ($1 = 5.6136 reais) (Reporting by Gabriel Araujo; Editing by David Gregorio)