April 24, 2019 / 7:20 AM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-Heineken sells more beer in all regions, but Mexico dips

* Q1 beer volumes up 4.3 pct, in line with forecasts

* Keeps outlook of mid-single-digit pct rise in operating profit

* Volumes dip in largest market Mexico, gain in Vietnam (Adds regional breakdown)

By Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS, April 24 (Reuters) - Heineken, the world’s second largest brewer, increased beer sales in all regions in the first three months of 2019, although a reduction in marketing activities contributed to a dip in its largest market, Mexico.

The company maintained its full-year 2019 outlook for an increase in operating profit before one-offs of a mid-single-digit percentage.

The Dutch maker of Heineken, Tiger and Sol lagers said on Wednesday that consolidated beer volumes rose 4.3 percent year-on-year to 52.7 million hectolitres, exactly in line with the average forecast of analysts in a company poll.

The rise in sales in the first quarter came despite Easter falling in late April, three weeks later than in 2018, delaying stock building ahead of the holiday weekend. That also weighed on sales in Mexico, although warm weather in Europe helped offset the effect in those markets.

Premium beer sales in Mexico grew by a double digit percentage, however.

In its second most important market, Vietnam, beer sales increased, as they did in Brazil, where Heineken increased its presence in 2017 to become the number two player.

The brewer also registered improved business across Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, including in Russia, Egypt, Ethiopia, South Africa and Nigeria, its biggest African market.

The milder weather was particularly beneficial for sales in France, Italy and Britain, with the latter also supported by inventory build-ups ahead of the country’s planned departure from the European Union at the end of March.

Volumes fell in Poland and also in the United States, where Heineken is principally an importer.

Heineken said net profit in the first quarter was 299 million euros ($335.1 million), up from 260 million euros a year earlier.

It also said that positive currency effects on operating profit would be 80 million euros based on current exchange rates. In mid-February, it had put the figure at 60 million euros. ($1 = 0.8923 euros) (Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop Editing by Edmund Blair and Kirsten Donovahn)

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