Heineken and Carlsberg have signalled plans to cut costs after Heineken boss Jean-François van Boxmeer warned of a “perfect storm” in the UK beer market.

Heineken said it would be concentrating on cutting costs and reducing a debt burden of nearly €9bn (£7.95bn) after announcing a fall-off in profits of almost three-quarters in the past year.

The Dutch-owned brewing giant saw profits fall by 74% over the past 12 months to €209m, down from €807m for the previous year. The drop came despite a 27% increase in sales to €14.3bn.

“The performance in the UK was below expectations as the combination of recession, on-trade downturn, unprecedented excise duty rises, the smoking ban and the fall in the value of the British pound made the market exceptionally challenging,” said chief executive van Boxmeer.

Sales of Foster’s, which Heineken acquired in its £7.8bn joint takeover with Carlsberg of Scottish & Newcastle last year, were down by 10% for the period.

Van Boxmeer added: “The strategic position remains the same – S&N UK is still the leader in the beer and cider markets, so it’s a good position to build on.”

Carlsberg followed suit with plans of its own to reduce overheads and said a new round of jobs cuts was likely after last month axing around 270 staff. That was despite a rise in fourth-quarter sales of more than a third to $2.4bn.

“Beer is one of the less affected consumer categories in economic recessions,” said chief executive Jorgen Rasmussen. “It’s clearly not immune to weaker economies but overall it’s holding up well.”