Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates bought a 3.76% stake in Heineken Holding NV last week, splashing out more than $1.3 billion on shares in the company.
The move followed Mexican retail and bottling giant FEMSA announcing it was focusing back on its core businesses and digital operations and divesting its stake in the Dutch beer giant.
FEMSA offloaded all 18 million of its shares in the brewer, with Gates buying 10.8 million of them, despite revealing in a 2018 “Ask Me Anything” chat session on Reddit that he was “not a big beer drinker.”
“When I end up at something like a baseball game I drink light beer to get with the vibe of all the other beer drinkers. Sorry to disappoint real beer drinkers.”
Gates’ purchase followed Heineken reported a 2022 profit surge in 2022 on February 15, with revenue growth of 30.4%.
Its premium beer volume grew 11.4% versus 2021 and came 15.6% ahead of 2019, organically. Its premium brands outperformed the total portfolio in the majority of its markets and accounted for more than half of its total organic growth in beer volume in 2022.
Sales in Asia were up by nearly a third, the rebound coming a year after COVID-19 restrictions were in place in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and its largest Asian market, Vietnam.
CEO Dolf van den Brink said: “Our premium portfolio continued to outperform, led by the excellent momentum of the Heineken® brand and further propelled by the roll-out of Heineken Silver. We are innovating to expand our leadership positions in non-alcoholic and in beyond beer.”
Heineken Silver is a 4% ABV lager that uses an “ice-cold brewing process” to create a less bitter taste than the brand’s core lager and a “lighter drinking profile”.
The Beyond Beer category for Heineken includes Desperados, a “spirit beer” with a presence in more than 80 countries, and Strongbow.
Heineken also predicted further growth for 2023, with operating profit expected to grow organically in the mid- to high-single-digits.