Japan's Asahi gives weaker-than-expected outlook as virus hits beer sales

TOKYO, Aug 5 (Reuters) - Japanese beverage maker Asahi Group Holdings gave a weaker-than-expected profit outlook for the year, as the coronavirus pandemic hit global beer sales, particularly in the high-margin wholesale category for bars and restaurants.

The owner of brands including Asahi Super Dry, Peroni and Pilsner Urquell forecast a 38% fall to 124 billion yen ($1.17 billion) in annual operating profit on Wednesday.

Analysts on average had expected 164 billion yen, Refinitiv Eikon data showed.

For the six months through June, operating profit fell 49% to 45 billion yen as beer drinkers around the world avoided going out to bars.

“These are severe results,” CEO Akiyoshi Koji told an online news conference, adding that the company was aiming to rebound from next year with the help of cost savings.

Asahi in recent years has aggressively pursued international growth as it faces a shrinking population and declining popularity of beer in Japan.

Its $11 billion acquisition of Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Australian business, Carlton & United Breweries, closed in June.

$1 = 105.7200 yen Reporting by Ritsuko Ando; editing by Jason Neely