AB InBev cuts 800 European jobs, workers block Belgium gates

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Anheuser-Busch InBev has revealed plans to cut 800 jobs across western Europe, prompting workers in Belgium to take company managers hostage.

The job losses represent a 10 per cent reduction in the 8,000-strong workforce in Belgium, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

An AB InBev spokesperson told BeverageDaily that the company intends to make 263 job cuts in Belgium and 386 in Germany. Figures have not yet been revealed for the UK, which is the other major western European market for the company.

Worker retaliation

In Belgium, news of the job cuts prompted union representatives at the Jupiler brewery to hold 10 managers hostage. After 11 hours the workers eventually let the managers go.

Meanwhile, at both the Jupiler and Leven breweries in Belgium the gates have been blocked since Thursday, preventing lorries from entering or leaving. An AB InBev spokesperson said the action was regrettable, and that it hopes to sit down with social representatives to resolve the situation as soon as possible.

AB InBev blamed the job cuts on falling beer sales, and the general economic climate, saying the company needed to be “slimmer and more flexible”.

“Structural decline”

For the first nine months of 2009 total sales revenue declined 1.8 per cent in organic terms to $24.461bn. Weak demand was especially pronounced in western Europe, where total volumes fell 5.6 per cent.

A company spokesperson said a “structural decline”​ in beer consumption has been going on for several years in western Europe and that AB InBev has to realign its business in view of this long-term trend. A statement from the company also said the industry has not been immune to the general economic climate.

Along with a general overall decline there has been a shift in drinking habits with more premium and specialty beers gaining popularity. AB InBev said its restructuring plans, announced on Friday, are designed to make the company more consumer focused, and better able to respond to new opportunities in the beer market.

AB InBev is the world’s largest brewer, formed in 2008 amid significant consolidation in the brewing industry. The owner of brands like Stella, Becks and Budweiser is the product of the InBev acquisition of Anheuser-Busch in 2008, and the 2004 merger between Interbrew and AmBev, which resulted in the formation of InBev.

Related topics: AB InBev, Markets

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