Beer giant Heineken posts sales hit on Russia exit, higher prices


In this photo illustration, bottles of Heineken beer are displayed on July 31, 2023 in San Anselmo, California.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Heineken beer sales fell in the third quarter as the Dutch brewer completed the long-awaited exit of its Russia operations and consumers were put off by higher prices.

Volumes were down 4.2% on the previous year, taking the decline across the first nine months of 2023 to 5.1%. Revenue was nonetheless higher in the quarter due to price hikes, up 2% to 9.604 billion euros ($10.17 billion).

Heineken shares were 2% higher in early trade.

Americas sales were a lone bright spot, increasing 2.2%, as Europe sales dropped 8.6% and its Africa, Middle East & Eastern Europe business shed 15.4%.

The group’s beers include Amstel, Tiger, Sol, Desperados and Birra Moretti. It is the world’s second-biggest brewer by sales.

Net profit for the first nine months slowed from 2.199 billion euros to 1.924 billion, including the impact from Russia.

It reiterated a full-year operating profit growth forecast of zero to mid-single-digit percentage growth, which was welcomed by analysts.

Heineken in August sold its business in Russia to domestic firm Arnest Group, which took 100% of shares and assets including its seven breweries for a symbolic single euro. It said it had provided employment guarantees for 1,800 employees for three years.

The company had faced criticism for dragging out its departure from Russia, which it vowed to exit in March 2022 shortly after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Heineken and other large firms with manufacturing operations in Russia have said leaving has been a complex process with a high risk of assets falling under state control.

Heineken said this summer it expected a 300 million euro hit, including foreign exchange losses, from the process.

Heineken CEO discusses inflationary pressures of the first half

It did not provide significant further details in the third quarter update, but listed the Russia exit and a fall in sales in Vietnam as the main reasons for the overall decline in volumes.

“We … see gradual improvement in our business performance, although somewhat slower than our ambition,” CEO Dolf van den Brink said in a statement.

“Whilst inflation-led pricing is tapering, we observe a slowdown of consumer demand in various markets facing challenging macro-economic conditions.”

“After several quarters of miscommunication and over-promising/under-delivery … today’s update should be seen as reassuring,” Citi analyst Simon Hales said in a note cited by Reuters.