Interbrew sees profits fall by 10%

Belgian beer giant Interbrew today said annual profits had fallen more than 10% after disposing of its Carling brewery in the UK.

Belgian beer giant Interbrew today said annual profits had fallen more than 10% after disposing of its Carling brewery in the UK.

The company, whose brands include Stella Artois, Beck’s and Tennent’s, said it still expected to generate organic volume and profit growth in 2003.

But for last year, bottom line pre-tax profits fell from €775m in 2001 to €665m this time.

Underlying profits before the cost of disposals dropped 5% to €836m from €884m in 2001.

Interbrew has acquired a host of well known brands, including Beck’s in Germany.

But the company was forced to sell Carling in order to get approval from competition watchdogs for its acquisition of Bass Brewing.

John Brock, the new chief executive, said: “Interbrew has a truly outstanding portfolio of brands which provide an impressive platform for growth.”

Mr Brock, who replaced Hugo Powell in February, said there needed to be a greater focus on organic volume growth and integration in the business.

The company has previously been criticised by analysts for paying too much for acquisitions and failing to integrate them.

While he did not rule out acquisitions, Mr Brock said potential deals would be scrutinised closely in future to ensure they were strategic and created value.

In the UK, Interbrew said Stella Artois continued to perform exceptionally well with volumes growing 12.7%.

Off licence sales of the lager grew 18.9% while sales in pubs and bars saw 6.7% growth in 2002.

“We expect that a recently implemented quality program, as well as the increasing number of outlets for Stella Artois, will help to continue to build this growth in 2003, despite competitive pressures,” the company said in a statement.

Recently-acquired Tennent’s lager in Scotland kept its place as the leading brand north of the border.

Beck’s is the fastest-growing beer in Germany, with volumes up 7.8% while its margins improved after a price increase in July.

Interbrew also acquired Glide, Germany’s third fastest-growing beer, and integrated it within the Hasseroder portfolio.

Rolling Rock, the group’s premium brand in the US saw volume growth of 5.3% while in China Interbrew moved to establish a sustainable position by acquiring a 70% stake in the brewing activities of the KK Group in Ningbo.

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