Page last updated at 12:13 GMT, Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Heineken and Carlsberg see contrasting fortunes

Heineken beer
Heineken is the world's third-largest brewer

Dutch brewing giant Heineken has forecast lower beer consumption in many regions this year as it reported a drop in sales volumes in 2009.

Beer volumes fell 1.5% last year, but revenues increased 2.7% to 14.7bn euros ($20bn; £12.9bn) thanks to price rises.

The group made a net profit of 1.05bn euros, a 4% rise on the previous year.

Carlsberg reported a 38% rise in profit to 3.6bn Danish Kroner ($660m; £425m) in 2009, driven by strong performances in Eastern Europe and Asia.

The group's beer volumes increased 6%, although currency fluctuations meant revenues fell 1%.

Mixed markets

Heineken and Carlsberg teamed up in 2008 to buy the UK's Scottish & Newcastle. The assets of Scottish & Newcastle were split between the two firms, with Heineken taking most of the UK assets while Carlsberg took full control of the BBH Russian venture.

Heineken has been hit harder by the consumer downturn in the west as it relies more on the European and North American markets.

The group is hoping to increase its presence elsewhere though, having bought the beer-making operations of Mexico's Femsa.

The company's chairman, Jean-François van Boxmeer, told the BBC World Service: "The global economic environment will continue to lead to lower beer consumption in a number of regions in 2010.

"Demographics are working against us, the population is ageing and as you age you drink less beer," he told World Business News.

"The other phenomenon is that with the wealth creation of the last 30 years, people diversify their consumption and try wines instead of beer."

The company said it was committed to maintaining or increasing prices this year, but that any increases would not be as steep as they were in 2009.

Carlsberg said it saw "many opportunities" in 2010 but forecast a "low double-digit decline" in the Russian market after the country introduced a 200% increase in excise duties at the start of 2010.

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