Heineken sold more beer in the first three months of 2014, with a pick-up in Africa, especially Nigeria where beer volumes grew by a double-digit percentage in the first three months of 2014, the Americas and some of Europe.
The world’s third largest brewer recorded a flat Asia and weakness in Russia.
The brewer of Europe’s best-selling Heineken lager, Sol, Tiger and Strongbow cider said on Thursday it was encouraged by a positive start to the year in Africa and the Americas and its sharper European business.
“This is offsetting continued challenging beer market conditions in Russia and softer consumer spending in Vietnam,” Chief Executive Jean-Francois van Boxmeer said in a statement, adding that economic conditions as a whole were mixed.
Heineken shares were trading up 1.0 percent at 51.68 euros at 0715 GMT, making them among the stronger performers in the a largely flat STOXX European food and beverage index.
“Volumes were a bit weaker than expected, revenue broadly in line. Regionally, Africa was very strong, Americas pretty solid and western Europe having an easy comparison,” said Trevor Stirling, beverage analyst at Bernstein. “The bears will look at Asia-Pacific, the bulls at Africa.”
The Dutch brewer said consolidated beer volumes rose 1.5 percent on a like-for-like basis to 38.2 million hectolitres. Consolidated revenue was up 3.4 percent to 4.04 billion euros ($5.59 billion).
Heineken, the largest seller of beer in Europe, repeated its forecast that revenue should grow in 2014 on a like-for-like basis and excluding currency effects. It grew by just 0.1 percent in 2013.
Heineken suffered a year ago from an exceptionally long winter in northern Europe making people less inclined to drink, a 160 percent increase in beer duty in France and a slowdown in Nigeria, one of its major growth markets where high inflation hit disposable income.
In the first three months of 2014, Heineken said beer volumes grew by a double-digit percentage in Nigeria and by 8.7 percent as a whole in Africa.
Beer volumes also grew, by a more modest 2.1 percent in western Europe, with increases in the France, the Netherlands, Spain, Ireland and Belgium, but declines in Britain, Italy and Switzerland.
Heineken also benefited from price increases in Brazil and Mexico.
However, in Asia, a reliable source of growth in recent years, volumes were stable, with declines in India, Malaysia, Taiwan and large market Vietnam, where currency weakness and economic slowdown hit.
Russia, with sales down by a mid-teen percentage after yet another excise increase, also dragged down earnings in eastern Europe.
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) in 2012.
About 60 percent of operating profit now comes from emerging markets, on a par with rival Anheuser-Busch InBev ABI.BR, from 40 percent in 2007, although emerging markets are less reliable growth engines, with a number suffering growing pains in recent months.
SABMiller, the world’s second largest beer maker, reported a modest 2 percent increase in volumes in the year to the end of March, with political and economic issues and a tax hike causing problems in some African nations.