Heineken keeps beer sales steady despite Covid lockdowns

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Heineken sold as much beer in the last quarter as a year ago. The world's second-largest brewing group was able to compensate for the European lockdowns with growth in Asia and Africa.


Solid start

"We had a solid start to the year, even though we faced severe constraints in many markets," says Dolf van den Brink, CEO of Heineken, since June last year. Indeed, the brewing group performed better than expected in the past quarter.


Volumes remained stable compared to the same period last year, although in most parts of the world the hospitality industry did not close its doors until March. Analysts, therefore, expected a volume decrease of 5.1 per cent. In fact, Heineken saw a 12 per cent increase in volume, driven mainly by growth in Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East (+9.9 per cent) and Asia (+5.4 per cent).


Growth was particularly strong in Nigeria and South Africa, offsetting a 9.7 per cent volume decline in Europe. Depending on the vaccination campaigns, the brewing giant assumes that the situation will also gradually improve in Europe during the second half of the year.


Moving towards a cost-conscious culture

Net profit came in at 168 million euros, which is substantially higher than the 94 million euros a year earlier but still lower than the pre-Covid level: in the first quarter of 2019, Heineken still achieved a net profit of 299 million euros. To further reduce costs, Van den Brink recently announced a hefty restructuring programme. Around 8,000 jobs worldwide, or 10 per cent of the entire workforce, will be scrapped.


The brewer will also hand over the management of its 750 pubs to the real estate group QB Management. Van den Brink strives for a cost-conscious culture in the company. Nevertheless, Heineken is also announcing new climate targets: by 2040, the Dutch group wants its entire value chain to be carbon-neutral.