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Heineken sees growth slowing in 2015

Heineken, the world's third largest brewer, forecast the rate of growth of volumes and margins would slow this year after solid expansion of both in 2014.

The Dutch brewer, the top seller in Europe with brands such as Heineken and Amstel, profited from increased beer sales in Africa, the Americas and Asia. Sales were broadly flat in western Europe while the only real weakness was seen in eastern Europe.

Consolidated operating profit before one-off rose 6.4 percent to 3.13 billion euros ($3.54 billion), just above the average of 3.11 billion euros in a Reuters poll of nine brokers and banks.

Heineken said it expected revenue to grow in 2015, but with slower expansion of beer sales than in 2014, partly because of strong increases in the first half of last year.

The company had forecast that its 2014 operating margin, excluding one-offs, would rise by more than 40 basis points, its medium-term annual target. In fact it grew by 90 basis points.

For 2015, it said it would take a 25 basis point hit from the sale of its Mexican packaging business, meaning margin expansion would be below its 40 point target.

Heineken has suffered in the past from contraction in Europe negating the effect of expansion in developing markets, notably southeast Asia, Mexico, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

However, Europe was less of a drag last year, with western European revenue up 0.3 percent and operating profit down by just 0.1 percent. Europe as a whole was responsible for about half of group revenue and just over a third of operating profit last year.