Investors cheered by Heineken’s gains

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Heineken’s full-year profit met estimates as cost savings offset weaker beer shipments in western Europe, according to results posted yesterday.

Earnings before interest and tax, excluding some items, rose to e2.9 billion (R34.8bn) for the year to last December from e2.7bn a year earlier, the maker of Amstel beer and Strongbow cider said. The median estimate of 10 analysts was e2.85bn.

Heineken gained as much as 5.2 percent to its highest price since at least 1989 in Amsterdam. The brewer cut e196 million of costs in 2012 through changes to the way it buys raw goods and services. Profitability would improve this year, the company said, as volume and revenue continued to advance, with African, Latin American and Asia Pacific markets offsetting weakness in Europe.

“Earnings growth is driven by emerging markets and the cost savings,” Richard Withagen, an analyst at SNS Securities, wrote in a note. “We expect this to continue in 2013.”

Heineken said it expected e525m of savings for 2012 through 2014, raising the target from e500m. The increased goal reflected last year’s acquisition of full control of Asia Pacific Breweries. It would book a further e100m in charges to implement the programme.

The price of beer ingredients would show a “slight” increase this year, Heineken said.

Revenue rose 3.9 percent last year, excluding acquisitions and currency swings, the company said. That missed the 4.4 percent average estimate. Consolidated beer volume, excluding the effect of acquisitions, increased 2.4 percent, versus forecasts of 2.5 percent.

Heineken is seeking growth in emerging markets to offset stumbling demand in western Europe, its biggest region. The brewer paid Singapore $5.6bn (R40.3bn) last year for control of its joint venture in Asia Pacific to expand in countries including Vietnam and take advantage of faster sales growth.

Heineken, which announced this month a strategic review of its Finnish unit, said it would seek to increase sales of higher-priced beers across western Europe despite it being affected by “economic uncertainty” and government cost-cutting measures.

Beer volume in the region declined 2 percent in 2012 and revenue edged down 0.1 percent, led by Spain and its home market of the Netherlands. The French government increased taxes on beer in January, following an increase in levies on spirits in 2012. – Clementine Fletcher in London for Bloomberg


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