May 11, 2020 / 6:41 AM / 21 days ago

Asahi profit slumps 45% as pandemic hits beer sales

FILE PHOTO: Condensation collects on a glass of Asahi beer at a bar in Singapore October 23, 2015. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese brewer Asahi Group Holdings (2502.T) reported a 45% tumble in quarterly operating profit as the coronavirus pandemic forced bars and restaurants around the world to shut in recent months, hurting sales of its beer brands including Peroni.

The beer and beverage maker also suspended all of its financial estimates, citing uncertainty over when the outbreak may end.

While lockdown drinking has gained popularity, with Asahi actively promoting parties over Zoom, the company said a slump in demand from restaurants and bars - many of which have been closed in recent months - hit its alcohol business.

It booked an operating profit of 12.9 billion yen ($120.59 million) in the quarter through end-March compared with 23.3 billion yen in the same period a year earlier.

Asahi has bought Italy’s Peroni and Czech market leader Pilsner Urquell, among others, in recent years, as a shrinking population and a growing preference for wine or cocktails weigh on domestic beer sales.

Its planned acquisition of AB InBev’s (ABI.BR) Australian business Carlton & United Breweries is expected to close next month.

Reporting by Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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