Heineken cautious as European beer drinking starts to slow

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BRUSSELS, Oct 26 (Reuters) – Heineken, the world’s second-largest brewer, has seen signs of slowdown in demand for its beer in some European markets over recent weeks, it said on Wednesday, after its third-quarter sales rose by less than expected.

Heineken shares were down as much as 8.1% in early trading at a seven-month low of 81.06 euros.

“We increasingly see reasons to be cautious on the macroeconomic outlook, including some signs of softness in consumer demand,” Chief Executive Dolf van den Brink said in a statement.

Beer volumes rose by 8.9% on a like-for-like basis in the third quarter, with the strongest increase in Asia, but compared with the 12.0% average market expectation.

Heineken said it retained its full-year outlook for operating margin to be stable or increase modestly this year.

However, it made no reference to its 2023 forecast, issued at the time of its half-year results in August, that its operating profit would rise by a mid to high single-digit percentage.

The brewer previously said rising inflation could limit consumer purchasing power and beer consumption. Heineken, like other brewers, also faces higher costs for raw materials and energy.

Heineken reported a 68% increase in its beer sales in the Asia-Pacific region in the July-Sept period, a year on from COVID-19 lockdowns, notably in its main Asian market Vietnam.

In Europe, where Heineken is the market leader, warm weather helped to drive sales despite rising inflation.

The company also said its net revenue before exceptional items and amortisation increased by 19.8%, a steeper rise than that of beer volumes, as consumers accepted higher prices or traded up to more expensive products.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, Editing by Louise Heavens and Barbara Lewis)

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