* 2016 operating profit 3.54 bln euros vs f'cast 3.51 bln
* Sees margin expansion of 40 basis points in 2017
* Sees similar currency hit as in 2016
* Shares up 4 percent
(Adds CEO/CFO comment on currencies, Mexico, shares, analyst
By Philip Blenkinsop
BRUSSELS, Feb 15 Strong growth in Asia and
Mexico led an increase in Heineken's beer sales in
2016 as the world's second-largest brewer edged above earnings
expectations and forecast even better margins this year.
The Dutch maker of Europe's top-selling lager Heineken, as
well as brands including Tiger and Sol, sold 3 percent more beer
last year, with the sharpest increase in Asia.
Sales also grew in France, Italy, Poland, Spain and Mexico,
but fell in Nigeria, one of the group's top four markets, as
well as in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Russia.
Chief Executive Jean-Francois van Boxmeer said margin
expansion should be in line with the group's target of 40 basis
points, excluding major unforeseen economic and political
developments and the impact of recent acquisitions in Brazil and
Some investors had felt it might struggle to reach its
medium-term margin target this year after it achieved a 54 point
improvement in 2016.
Heineken shares were up 4.0 percent at 0830 GMT, making them
the strongest performers in the FTSEurofirst 300 index
of leading European stocks.
"It's a good set of numbers ... and margin expansion this
year. You couldn't really ask for better than that," said Trevor
Stirling, beverage analyst at Bernstein Research.
Heineken said it assumed a similar negative impact from
currencies as last year, including a 1.1 billion euro hit on
revenue. Chief Financial Officer Laurence Debroux said, for
example, another devaluation of the Nigerian naira was likely
later this year.
One further uncertainty would be the impact on Mexico,
Heineken's largest market, of U.S. President Donald Trump, who
has talked about imposing duties on imports from its southern
neighbour. Van Boxmeer said for the time being it was "not yet
"How that all will pan out we don't know. We are prepared
for that. We're going to surf the wave as it comes, but I think
specifically for the tax situation, the NAFTA situation, this is
a lot of speculation," he told Reuters.
Heineken's operating profit excluding one-offs rose by 9.9
percent on a like-for-like basis excluding currency movements
and one-offs to 3.54 billion euros ($3.7 billion) last year.
That compared with the 3.51 billion average forecast in a
Heineken ranks as the world's number two brewer, although
the gap between it global leader AB InBev has widened
after the latter's near $100 billion takeover of SABMiller late
Heineken has since committed some $1.4 billion to buy most
of the pubs of Britain's Punch Taverns and the Brazilian
business of Japan's Kirin.
($1 = 0.9454 euros)
(Reporting By Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Robert-Jan