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Australian Beer Online: Lion continues to struggle as mainstream beer brands lose froth
Japan’s Kirin-owned dairy and drinks group Lion has suffered a 9.5 per cent slide in first half revenue and a 13 per cent drop in profitability as the Australian beer market remains challenging and it was forced to book an inventory revaluation at the beginning of the year due to lower milk prices.
A shortage of oranges and spike in prices for orange juice concentrates also hurt earnings for its non-alcoholic drinks business.
Driving the retreating sales and earnings was also the termination of a distribution agreement with global brewer AB InBev for a number of key beer brands, including Australia’s No. 1 imported beer, Corona, and the sale of Lion’s wine arm, Fine Wine Partners.
The brewer is still finding the $14 billion Australian beer market tough going as drinkers turn away from traditional beers, in favour of craft, or turn off from beer completely and opt for other beverages.
Although Lion has a strong portfolio of craft beers, such as James Squire and Little Creatures, White Rabbit and Kosciuszko Pale Ale, its growth wasn’t enough to counter the unfavourable conditions for its mainstream beers like XXXX, Toohey’s and Hahn.
Earlier this year the nation’s second biggest brewer said it was struggling to maintain its market share and had fallen behind industry growth rates as its flagship beers were losing drinkers to rival brands. Sinking consumer confidence was also impacting beer sales for Lion as well as the wider brewing sector.
In a trading update this evening, Lion, which is owned by Japanese conglomerate Kirin, said overall net sales revenue was down 9.5 per cent to $2.176bn, largely due to the ending of its deal with AB Inbev with key beers going back to its CUB arm. Its sales also slipped off the back of the sale of Fine Wine Partners.
Underlying performance for Lion remained solid, the company said, with the portfolio changes contributing to a 12.9 per cent decline in operating earnings to $334.7 million.
“Lion continued to perform strongly during a period where one-off events significantly affected this result, including the end of our relationship in Australia with AB Inbev, our decision to sell Fine Wine Partners and a global shortage in juice raw materials,’’ said Lion chief executive Stuart Irvine.
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