ST. LOUIS (AP) _ The board of directors of Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. on Wednesday approved creation of employee stock ownership plans that will borrow $500 million and use the proceeds to buy common stock from the company at the market price.

The ESOP shares will be allocated to participants over the next 15 years as contributions are made to the plans.

The company said the plan will enhance stock ownership of employee participants and improve shareholder value.

In a related move, the board authorized the purchase by the company of up to 15 million shares of company stock in addition to previously announced repurchase plans.

Anheuser-Busch also announced record first-quarter earnings of $167.1 million, up 9.6 percent from net income of $152.4 million for the same period in 1988. Earnings per share increased to 58 cents, up 13.7 percent from 51 cents in the first quarter last year.

Gross sales were reported at $2.4 billion, up 5.9 percent from $2.26 billion a year ago.