* Q1 revenue 4.145 bln euros vs expected 4.29 billion euros
* Beer drinking down in all regions except Asia
* Still forecasts like-for-like volume, revenue growth in
* Sees austerity-hit Europe, Nigeria inflation capping
* Shares drop 7 percent, weakest in FTSEurofirst 300 index
(Updates with CFO comment, shares)
By Philip Blenkinsop
BRUSSELS, April 24 Heineken, the
world's third largest brewer, said austerity-hit Europe and
inflation in Nigeria had lowered its expectations for growth
this year, after its beer sales fell in every region except Asia
in the first three months.
The Dutch brewer, which along with rivals is looking
increasingly to Asia for growth, said on Wednesday that sales
volumes and revenues would grow this year, but probably at rates
lower than in 2012.
Previously Heineken, which brews Europe's best selling
Heineken lager and also Sol, Tiger and Strongbow cider, had
forecast growth in 2013 would be at least as high as last year.
Europe's largest brewer said the first quarter had been
weaker than expected and austerity pressures in Europe and the
impact of inflation on Nigerians' spending power would continue.
"What we lost in the first quarter is done. We don't get
that back. Secondly, the rebound in Nigeria is later than
expected," Chief Financial Officer Rene Hooft Graafland told a
conference call. "Third, western Europe stays a difficult
Heineken, like brewing rivals, has sought to increase its
emerging market presence to tap higher growth, while hiking
prices in developed markets. It bought the brewing operations of
Mexico's Femsa in 2010 and took full control of
Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) last year.
About 60 percent of operating profit now comes from emerging
markets, on a par with rival Anheuser-Busch InBev, from
40 percent in 2007.
Heineken's shares fell as much as 7.6 percent to a 10-week
low of 53.31 euros and were the weakest performers in the
FTSEurofirst 300 index of leading European stocks.
However, they have still gained 12.3 percent in the previous
three months, greater than the 8.7 percent gain of the STOXX
European food and beverage index.
"They have said that the first quarter is not that
representative, but the lower volume and revenue growth will be
met with some degree of disappointment," said Bernstein Research
analyst Trevor Stirling.
Analysts said they were aware of the exceptionally long
winter in northern Europe making people less inclined to go out
to drink, France's 160 percent increase in beer duty and a
slowdown in Nigeria.
But falling sales in what are normally growth markets -
Brazil, due to an earlier Carnival, the Democratic Republic of
Congo after a tax rise, and Russia - as well as broadly flat
sales in Mexico, had made the quarter weaker than expected.
Hooft Graafland said the volume declines would not continue.
Heineken said its revenue in the first three months rose 8.1
percent to 4.145 billion euros ($5.39 billion), below the
average 4.29 billion euros expected in a Reuters poll of seven
banks and brokers.
Excluding the full takeover of APB at the end of last year
and currency effects, revenue was down 2.7 percent.
The group said operating profit declined by a mid-single
digit percentage on a like-for-like basis, due to lower revenue
only partly offset by a cut in marketing expenses and the
results of its cost-savings programme.
Full-year margins should be similar to or just slightly
higher than those of 2012, the financial director said.
Group beer volumes fell 2.7 percent overall, with declines
in all regions except Asia, where the company sold more beer in
Vietnam, China, Malaysia and Indonesia. Western Europe was the
weakest, with an 8.7 percent drop in beer sales.
For Heineken, the first quarter is seasonally less
significant, with more beer sold in the summer. Last year, the
first three months represented 21 percent of consolidated beer
volume and considerably less in terms of profit contributions.
Heineken is the second of the big four brewers to give
figures for the first three months of the year. World number one
Anheuser-Busch reports on April 30, Carlsberg on May
7. SABMiller said last week that lager volumes rose 4
percent in the fourth quarter, but fell in Latin America, its
biggest region. Volumes grew in Africa, Asia and Europe.
($1 = 0.7683 euros)
(Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)