Heineken beer sales slide amid lockdowns, worse to come

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Heineken the world’s second-largest brewer, has reported a 14% slide in beer sales in March, with sharp declines in all regions as the COVID-19 pandemic closed pubs and restaurants across the globe.

In some countries, such as South Africa, the Dutch brewer was forced to shut down production. In France, Italy and Spain, increased beer sales in stores failed to compensate for the collapse of bar trade.

The maker of Heineken, Tiger and Sol beers, and Strongbow cider, said first-quarter net profit fell by 68% to 94 million euros ($102.1m), the company said.

Beer volumes fell 2.1% in the quarter while overall volumes, including cider and soft drinks, fell 3.9%, confirming guidance given two weeks ago.

The second quarter would be worse, Heineken said, with an impact also in the second half of the year as lockdowns may be lifted but the impact on the economy endured.

The company added that the lack of clarity on the impact of COVID-19 meant it has withdrawn all guidance for 2020.

Bonuses in 2020 for senior managers would be canceled, it said.

Heineken explained that it would pay its planned final dividend for 2019, but would not provide an interim dividend after its half-year results in August.

In 2019, Heineken gave an interim payment of 0.64 euros per share.

Heineken’s major markets are Brazil, Mexico and Vietnam, and is also the largest brewer in Europe.

Danish rival Carlsberg said earlier this month it was expanding cost-cutting as consumers in Europe opted more for less pricy multi-packs of mainstream lagers than craft or speciality beers.

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