Heineken beer sales pop but hazy days ahead

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch brewer Heineken said Wednesday its beer sales were up but saw a “challenging and uncertain” economic outlook and couldn’t guarantee the same growth for the rest of the year.

Global beer volume sold rose by 4.7 percent in the first quarter of the year compared to the same period in 2023, said Heineken, the world’s second-biggest brewer after AB InBev.

The growth was driven by volumes in Asia-Pacific, which enjoyed 9.4 percent growth, offsetting slower growth in Europe (1.6 percent).

The group’s other brands include Amstel, Sol, Tiger, and Birra Moretti.

Heineken Chief Executive Dolf van den Brink saw an “encouraging” start to 2024, which was boosted by an early Easter holiday.

“We continue to see the economic environment as challenging and uncertain, and will remain agile and focused,” he said.

Despite what the firm described as a “solid” start to the year, it warned, “we cannot extrapolate the reported top-line growth to the rest of the year.”

Profit forecast unchanged

The brewer left its profit forecasts unchanged for the year, with operating profit predicted at “low-to-high single digits” and net profit lower than that.

Heineken no longer publishes quarterly net profit figures, unveiling these only in half-year or full-year reports.

Aarin Chiekrie, an analyst from Hargreaves Lansdown, said the results “finally gave the group something to raise a glass to.”

“Total beer volumes were much better than the market expected, meaning that growth on the top line came from a much healthier mix of both price and volume this quarter,” added Chiekrie.

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Heineken stock fell slightly by 0.4 percent around an hour into trading on the Amsterdam stock exchange, which was up by 0.8 percent at the same time.

Heineken’s annual report in February showed a drop in profits and beer volumes sold over 2023.

READ: Heineken profit higher than expected after Asia rebound

The firm’s 2023 net profit came in at 2.3 billion euros ($2.4 billion) compared to the 2.7 billion euros it made the year before.

Overall beer sales in 2023 dipped by 4.7 percent, with 60 percent of that decline driven by sharp falls in Nigeria and Vietnam, according to the firm.

It said its business last year had been impacted by “unprecedented levels of commodity and energy inflation” and expected the economic environment would remain “a factor of uncertainty” this year as well.