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Heineken forced to write off Kaiser stake

Heineken, the Dutch brewer, has been forced to write off the entire value of its 20 per cent stake in Cervejarias Kaiser, the Brazilian beermaker.

Kaiser - which is majority-owned by Molson, the Canadian brewer - has been losing sales volumes and market share in Brazil. Its owners have also been hit by currency fluctuations.

Heineken’s decision to take an impairment charge of €190m (US$243m) on its stake in the business reduces the carrying value of the investment to zero.

It said the business was definitely worth something - but could not say for certain how much.

On September 8, the Dutch brewer warned it was reviewing the value of the investment. Molson last week announced a write-down of its own stake in Kaiser.

In spite of the setback, Heineken said it was considering participating in the C$45m (US$37m) capital injection into Kaiser, which was also announced by Molson last week.

The tough competition in the Brazilian market was also demonstrated on Wednesday by AmBev, the leading brewer in the country.

It said net income fell 61 per cent to R$131.7m (US$46.6m) in the third quarter, reflecting goodwill amortisation and adverse exchange rate movement.

Sales and marketing expenses rose steeply in its Brazilian beer arm, although domestic market share and sales volumes both increased. Net sales increased 46 per cent to just under R$3bn.

The Latin American brewer recently completed a complex alliance with Interbrew, the Belgium-based company now known as InBev following the deal.

InBev reported nine-month results on Wednesday that showed the first contribution from AmBev under the alliance. Including a one-month contribution from AmBev, net sales rose 11 per cent to €5.82bn. Organic sales growth was 6.3 per cent, underpinned by strong trading in eastern Europe and the US. Operating profit rose 67 per cent to €1.04bn.

However, this included a €473m gain from the sale of its stake in Femsa, the Mexican brewer. Organic operating profit rose 9.4 per cent. Pernod-Ricard, the French distiller, said strong growth of Chivas Regal and Royal Salute whiskies helped it achieve 6.4 per cent organic sales growth in the first nine months of the year.

However, reported sales rose by a much more modest 1.3 per cent because of the relative weakness of the dollar against the euro.

Adam Jones

Financial Times - 5 November 2004
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