Heineken has reported a decline in operating profits and a fall in like-for-like beer sales in its key European and US markets in the first quarter of 2009.

Group operating profits fell in low single digits for the three months to the end of March, as higher beer prices failed to offset costs, Heineken said in a trading update today (22 April).

Like-for-like sales for the first quarter fell by 1%, with like-for-like beer sales by volume down by 6%.

If Heineken's part-acquisition of Scottish & Newcastle last year is included, sales revenue rose by 24% to EUR3bn (US$3.87bn) and volumes were up 12%.

"Organic volume was adversely impacted by a combination of factors including the global economic downturn, unfavourable weather, the continued effect of smoking bans, distributor destocking, excise duty increases and selling price increases," said Heineken.

The firm's share price fell by almost 7% in the first three hours of trading this morning.

Beer volume sales fell in all Western Europe markets and most Eastern Europe markets, including Russia, during the quarter. Volumes also fell in the Americas, although the group reported growth in Asia Pacific and a 16% volumes rise in its Africa and Middle East division.

"Heineken's full-year results and volumes are far more dependent on the performance in the peak-selling season (May-August). The first quarter is the least significant in terms of volume and profitability," the Dutch brewer added.

Heineken reiterated that its strategy for 2009 would be to cut debt and reduce costs across the business.