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Dutch brewing giant Heineken (HEIA) saw profits surge ahead of analyst expectations in 2018, buoyed by its namesake brand’s strongest growth in a decade.

The beer manufacturer’s organic operating profit hit €3.8bn (£3.4bn) in 2018, rising 6.4% from the previous 12 months.

Full-year net revenues climbed 6.1% to €26.8bn for the year to 31 December 2018, ahead of average analyst predictions, while consolidated beer volumes also rose by 4.2%.

The world’s second largest brewer said that it sees no sign of a slowdown and forecast higher profits, on the back of increased demand for more expensive drinks and rising beer prices.

Its eponymous green-bottled beer brand reported 7.7% sales growth over the year, its strongest for more than a decade.

Premium drinks sales grew by double digits, driven by its international brands, craft and cider portfolio, the company added. Tiger, Birra Moretti and Desperados all recorded double digit volume growth.

UK sales volumes saw double digit growth, helping to offset weaker performances in Vietnam and the US.

Heineken’s cider UK sales grew by mid-single digit figures, while it also heralded strong growth for its low and no-alcohol portfolio, including Heineken 0.0.

All regions saw growth, while Brazil recorded a “strong performance” following the integration of the beer business it purchased from Kirin in 2017.

The Fosters and Strongbow brewer issued a profit warning in July, when it cut full-year margin forecasts due to currency headwinds and its rapid expansion in Brazil.

In August, Heineken bought a 40% stake in the parent company of China’s largest beer company for $3.1 billion, in an effort to better compete with AB InBev in the region.

“In 2018 we delivered another year of superior top-line growth,” commented CEO Jean-François van Boxmeer.

“Our strategic priorities are growth oriented with an ever-increasing emphasis on the sustainability of this growth, both socially and environmentally.

“Going into 2019, we expect the environment to remain uncertain and volatile. Overall, we anticipate our operating profit to grow by mid-single digit on an organic basis.”

Heineken shares have jumped 4.3% in morning trading to €84.86 on the back of the results.

Morning update

Packaging giant Smurfit kappa Group (SKG) fell to a pre-tax loss in the 2018 full-year, as it was impacted by the political chaos in Venezuela.

Despite reporting increases in revenue and EBITDA, €1.27bn in exceptional costs relating to the deconsolidation of its Venezuelan business saw it fall to a E404m pre-tax loss.

Sales for 2018 jumped 4% to €8.9bn, while EBITDA climbed 25% to €1.5bn.

The Ireland-based supplier was buoyed by an acquisition drive which saw deals in France, the Netherlands and Serbia.

The FTSE 100 business has 45,000 employees in over 350 production sites across 34 countries.

“Our 2018 performance demonstrates the Group’s transformation of recent years, which is delivering progressively superior returns. This creates the platform for success in 2019 and beyond,” commented CEO Tom Smurfit.

“The Group delivered on or exceeded its key measures. This reflects our market-leading positions, our innovation capability and investment decisions.

“Above all else, it reflects an unrelenting focus on delivering value to our customer base, a performance-led culture and the quality of our people.”

The FTSE 100, opened higher, up 0.5% to 7,168pts, amid optimism over a US-China trade deal.

The early risers include Smurfit Kappa Group (SKG), up 2.4% to 2,320p, Whitbread (WTB), up 1.6% to 4,838p and Fevertree Drinks (FEVR), up 1.3% to 2,743p.

The fallers include Majestic (WINE), down 4.6% to 260p, Devro (DVO), down 3.2% to 156.9p, and Purecircle Limited (PURE), down 2.8% to 281.5p.

Yesterday in the city

Despite a strong start to trading, the FTSE 100 dropped in the afternoon session, finishing the day just 0.1% up, to 7,133pts, after Theresa May’s Brexit address to the House of Commons.

Yesterday, US consumer group Colgate Palmolive (CL) announced it replaced its British born CEO Ian Cook with the group’s COO Noel Wallace.

Elsewhere, Finnish food group Raisio reported a drop in sales and profits in 2018 as it was hit by difficult market conditions in Russia and Poland and a poor harvest in Finland.

In yesterday’s trading, one of the big winners was private label manufacturer Bakkavor (BAKK), which jump 5.7% to 148p, but it remains more than 25% down on its initial IPO price from last year.

Other risers included PayPoint (PAY), up 3.6% to 901p, Devro (DVO), up 2.3% to 162.2p, and Stock Spirit Group (STCK), up 2.2% to 233p.

Convenience retailer McColls (MCLS) returned to decline, following two profit warnings in the past 12 months, sliding another 4% to 52.4p.

Other fallers included Sainsbury’s (SBRY), down 3.4% to 283.9p, Britvic (BVIC), down 2.8% to 886.5p, and Carr’s Group (CARR), down 2.8% to 167p.