Thailand. Bottoms up! ThaiBev bucks weak demand as beer sales fuel growth

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Chang Beer’s new look was a hit.

When ThaiBev launched a sleek new green bottle for its flagship Chang Beer brand, the market reaction was almost inebriating. The group’s net profit from beer surged by a staggering 207% year-on-year, while its total market share jumped from 30% to 38% in the span of a few quarters.

Analysts note that the extremely good performance from ThaiBev’s beer segment exceeded expectations. Kenneth Ng, analyst at CIMB, noted that the strong Q4 beer sales were not due to channel restocking effect, but was due to more positive market feedback after Chang’s makeover.

“The reality is, customer feedback was good, domestic sales surged and market share gains have come at the expense of [Chang’s rival] Leo. In fact, Thai Bev has actually kept channel inventory relatively light to ensure the freshness of beer stock,” Ng said.

Ng highlighted that thanks to the new green bottle, the price differential between Leo and Chang has narrowed, from THB4-5 two years ago to just THB1 for the big bottles. Small bottles are at price parity.

“Leo is not cutting retail prices but has increased trade rebates, which is effectively a price cut. Management does not believe that the beer fight this round centers around price, but thinks it is possible that Boon Rawd [Leo’s manufacturer] will react in some manner,” Ng noted.

Meanwhile, Jodie Foo, analyst at OCBC Investment Research, noted that apart from strong beer sales, corporate restructuring might prove to ThaiBev’s key growth catalyst this year.

“We understand from management that the corporate restructuring, which has been in talks, is also likely to happen this year. We could see a clearer alignment of business on the shareholdings front,” Foo noted.