Tax hikes take fizz out of beer sales

Declining consumption and a series of tax hikes are taking a heavy toll on Greece’s beer market. According to Jac van Herpen, managing director at Athenian Brewery, beer sales this year are expected to drop by 4 percent. The company, which controls more than 74 percent of the market, has seen the price of its products rise 18 percent since March last year due to hikes in value-added tax and a special levy applicable on alcoholic beverages. Despite the crisis, the company does not expect to reduce prices beyond running its promotional offers. Athenian Brewery has implemented in the last 10 years an investment program totaling 350 million euros which has also created many jobs, the managing director pointed out. The company’s investments will continue in 2010, with more than 20 million euros being spent mainly on updating facilities, packaging and refrigerators. While assessing the company’s financial performance for 2009, chief financial officer Nikos Zervas said that the economic crisis, a drop in tourist arrivals and unstable weather conditions combined to reduce the sales volume by 4.8 percent and revenues by 2.7 percent. The company’s net profit reached 64.9 million euros, which marks a reduction of 22 percent year-on-year. At the same time, the tax paid by the company rose 37 million, up from 29 million euros in the previous year, showing an increase of 27 percent due to a one-off contribution. Among the products sold by the brewery are Amstel and Heineken beer.