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Nigerian Breweries Faces Steep Losses and Plant Closures Amid Industry Crisis

Nigerian Breweries Plc, Africa’s largest beer producer, has recorded significant financial losses and has been forced to take drastic measures to stay afloat. The company reported a staggering loss of N52.089 billion in Q1 2024, a dramatic increase from the N10.715 billion loss during the same period in 2023. For the entire 2023 financial year, the brewer posted a net loss of N106 billion, reversing a profit of N13.187 billion in 2022.

In a bid to manage the crisis, Nigerian Breweries acquired an 80% stake in Distell Wines and Spirits Nigeria Limited, despite the worsening financial outlook. This acquisition, backed by the South African Reserve Bank, includes Distell International Limited’s import business in Nigeria. Managing Director Hans Essaadi emphasized that this move is part of a strategy to diversify product offerings beyond beer, but the timing raises questions given the company’s financial woes.

The broader brewery industry in Nigeria is also in turmoil. Guinness Nigeria Plc, the second-largest brewer, reported a year-to-date net loss of N61.652 billion as of March 2024, alongside a quarter-to-date net loss of N56.418 billion. Similarly, International Breweries, the third-largest, saw losses soar to N60.392 billion in Q1 2024, up from N2.306 billion in the same period of 2023.

Industry analysts attribute these struggles to a series of economic challenges including a foreign exchange crisis, rampant inflation, and high interest rates. An industry insider, preferring anonymity, highlighted the compounded impact of high fuel and diesel prices, deteriorating infrastructure, and costly raw materials.

In response to the dire situation, Nigerian Breweries announced in April 2024 that it would suspend operations at two of its nine plants. Corporate Affairs Director, Sade Morgan, stated that employees from the closed plants would be relocated or offered severance packages. This restructuring, part of a “Business Recovery Plan,” aims to secure a sustainable future for the company.

Additionally, Nigerian Breweries revealed plans to raise N600 billion through a rights issue to restore its balance sheet, following net finance expenses of N189 billion in 2023. Essaadi acknowledged the severe economic challenges, citing double-digit inflation, naira devaluation, and decreased consumer spending as key factors affecting the business.

Despite the grim outlook, the company has committed to supporting affected employees and communities, promising strong support packages and continued presence in host communities. However, the ongoing struggles raise serious concerns about the future viability of Nigerian Breweries and the broader industry in Nigeria.

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