Long winter sees Heineken's beer sales drop

21st April 2010, Comments 0 comments

Dutch brewing giant Heineken reported on Wednesday a 5.3-percent drop in sales volumes in the first quarter compared to the equivalent figure last year, partly offset by higher prices.

Unusually cold winter weather cut customers' thirst for beer, notably in Britain, the group said.

Net profit for the first quarter was 218 million euros, Heineken said in its first trading update of the year, without providing comparative figures.

Revenue was 2.2 percent lower at 2.94 million euros (3.94 million dollars), the brewer said, as the effect on revenue of lower volume, amounting to a fall of 4.6 percent was bigger than that of higher prices, which added 2.4 percent.

Beer volumes, down from 25.6 million hectolitres in the first quarter of 2009 to 23.6 million hectolitres this year, were weakened by colder than usual winter weather in western Europe in January and February, "especially in the UK", said a statement.

Challenging economic conditions in Europe and the US also affected consumption, while a tripling of excise duty in Russia also didn't help.

Heineken, Europe's biggest brewer, sells more than 200 beer and cider labels including Amstel, Cruzcampo, Birra Moretti, Foster's, Strongbow and Tiger.

It employed 55,000 people around the world last year, and operated 125 breweries in more than 70 countries, selling 159 million hectolitres of beer.

"Cash generation and debt reduction will remain an important focus for 2010," the company said.

It also planned to finalise the acquisition of Latin America's biggest brewer, Fomento Economico Mexicano SA (Femsa), producer of brands like Dos Equis and Sol.

© 2010 AFP

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