Heineken expects sales and margin growth to slow in 2015

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The world’s third-largest brewer, Heineken, forecast its beer sales and profit margins would grow by a slower rate in 2015 after a year swelled by emerging market expansion and the football World Cup.

The Dutch brewer, the top seller in Europe with brands such as Amstel, benefited from increased beer sales in Africa, the Americas and Asia. Sales and profits were broadly flat in western Europe, while eastern Europe was clearly weaker.

Consolidated operating profit before one-off items rose 6.4 per cent to £2.32bn.

Heineken said it expected revenue to grow in 2015, but with slower expansion of beer sales than in 2014, partly because of strong increases in the first half of last year.

The company had forecast that its 2014 operating margin, excluding one-offs, would rise by more than 40 basis points, its medium-term annual target. In fact it grew by 90 basis points.

For 2015, it said it would take a 25 basis point hit from the sale of its Mexican packaging business, meaning margin expansion would be below its 40 point target.

Heineken has suffered in the past from contraction in Europe negating the effect of expansion in developing markets, notably southeast Asia, Mexico, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

However, Europe was less of a drag last year, with western European revenue up 0.3 per cent and operating profit down by just 0.1 percent. Europe as a whole was responsible for about half of group revenue and just over a third of operating profit last year.