New CEO to Cut 8,000 Jobs as Heineken Feels Pandemic Effect

New CEO to Cut 8,000 Jobs as Heineken Feels Pandemic Effect
Heineken beer bottles are seen at a bar in Monterrey, Mexico, on June 20, 2017. (Daniel Becerril/File Photo/Reuters)

BRUSSELS—Heineken plans to cut about 8,000 jobs, the Dutch beer group said on Wednesday, seeking to restore operating margins to pre-pandemic levels after a sharp decline in profit because of coronavirus restrictions.

The world’s second-largest brewer, which makes Europe’s top selling lager Heineken as well as Tiger and Sol, said it would save 2 billion euros ($2.4 billion) over the three years to 2023 under CEO Dolf van den Brink’s “EverGreen” plan.

Savings will be achieved by redesigning its organization, reducing the complexity and number of its products and identifying its least effective spending, Heineken said.

The review of its operations will result in about 8,000 job losses—equating to nine percent of its workforce at the end of 2019—and a related 420 million euro charge ($508 million). Personnel expenses will be cut by about 350 million euros ($420 million), it added.

The brewer said ongoing restrictions on social gatherings and hospitality venues meant 2021 revenue, operating profit, and operating profit margin would be below levels in 2019.

It expects market conditions to improve gradually in 2021 and more into 2022, with a slow recovery in European bars and restaurants, less than 30 percent of which were open at the end of January.

The operating profit margin before one-offs should rise to 17 percent by 2023, the company said, versus 12.3 percent last year and 16.8 percent in 2019.

A stock photo of a Heineken beer. (Mehran B/Pexels)
A stock photo of a Heineken beer. (Mehran B/Pexels)

Heineken shares were down 2.2 percent at 09:55 GMT, making them 4.6 percent weaker in the year to date. Analysts said the cautious 2021 outlook and the fact that large restructuring only brought margins back to 2019 levels weighed on the stock.

“Underwhelming” was the verdict of Bernstein Securities beverage analyst Trevor Stirling of the margin goal.

More Global, More Caution

The brewer said it wanted more top-line growth than competitors and would push premium brands, such as Heineken, and zero-alcohol lager even more. It also aims to become the best digitally connected brewer to serve consumers who are increasingly looking to buy beer online.

Carlsberg, the world’s third-largest brewer, last week said it was banking on most COVID-19 restrictions being lifted in the coming months, serving to buoy earnings in the peak summer season.

Heineken’s Van den Brink, who took charge in June, was more cautious, but said vaccination programs in Europe, North America, and some more developed countries in Asia could allow a return to normality this year.

Brazil and Mexico, two of Heineken’s biggest markets, are still struggling to deal with the pandemic.

Operating profit fell 35.6 percent in 2020, in line with expectations.

By Philip Blenkinsop