Europe holds back brewer

Heineken, the world’s second-largest brewer, reported an increase in third-quarter beer sales, with growth in all regions except Europe, where poor summer weather reduced demand, and in the US.

Sales in the July-September period rose 2.5%, excluding the impact of acquisitions, to 60 million hectolitres, a little ahead of the average 57.9m expectation by analysts.

The share price was down almost 3.5% at one stage, making the shares one of the weakest performers in Europe’s FTSEurofirst index.

Analysts said the weakness in Europe and a sharper than predicted impact from changes in foreign currency exchange rates were behind the fall.

Heineken has already warned of a negative translational impact from foreign exchange rates, but estimated in its latest earnings report that for the full year it would be €75m at net profit level, against the €60m figure it gave in July.

The Dutch brewer, the top seller in Europe, said very strong growth in Asia Pacific, outside China, led to a 12.2% increase in beer volumes, while strength in South Africa, Ethiopia and Russia led to an 8.8% rise in sales to Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

Growth in the Americas was more muted, as lower sales in the US offset growth in Mexico and Brazil, where Heineken acquired Kirin’s business earlier this year.

In Europe, sales were down due to a cooler summer in France and the Netherlands as well as weakness in Poland and Britain, where supermarket Tesco has pulled some Heineken brands from its shelves over planned price increases.

The company said it retained its full-year expectations that revenue and profit would grow and that its operating margin would increase by about 40 basis points, excluding acquisitions concluded this year.

The company reported a net profit of €1.49bn for the first nine months, 1% higher than a year earlier when an impairment taken last year for the DRC is taken into account.

Heineken is betting on Formula One to help it reclaim the title of leading global lager from Budweiser, a strategy that depends on broadening the sport’s appeal in Asia.



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