Reuters: Heineken Shares Hit Four-Year High on Q1 Beer Sales

From Reuters:

Heineken, the world's third-largest brewer, sold more beer than expected in the first quarter and persuaded consumers to switch to premium brands, helping its shares to a four-year high.

Europe's largest beermaker said on Wednesday beer volume grew 4.7 percent on a like-for-like basis, with revenue up 6.8 percent. Volume growth was more than double the rate the market had expected.

Analysts said that while Heineken had benefited from mild winters in much of Europe and North America, an early Easter and an extra leap-year day, volume and revenue growth were still impressive. Revenue per hectolitre increased 3.5 percent.

Trevor Stirling, analyst at Bernstein Securities, said he was most encouraged by the 4.5 percent volume growth in the Americas, with improvements for the Heineken brand in the United States and growth in Mexico, where it bought the second-largest brewer FEMSA Cerveza in 2010.

"There was scepticism about the quality of the business they bought there and the ability of Heineken to pull it around. It looks like they are proving the sceptics wrong," he said.

The Dutch company's shares were up 4.0 percent to 44.00 euros at 0915 GMT, after hitting its highest level since January 2008.

Heineken said its higher revenue and cost savings were partly offset by increased fixed costs in certain high- inflation markets, investments and increased raw material costs, such as barley.

With a further 23 million euro ($30.2 million) charge for non-completion of a planned sale of a Chinese brewer, operating profit before one-off items declined slightly. It did not give a precise figure.

Heineken, for whom western Europe makes up 45 percent of revenue, stuck to the outlook it issued in February. That expected growth in the emerging markets it is pushing into in Africa, Latin America and Asia.


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