Coronavirus, drunk driving fines hurt Vietnam brewers

By Minh Son   February 20, 2020 | 04:39 pm PT
Coronavirus, drunk driving fines hurt Vietnam brewers
The normally overcrowded street-side pubs and restaurants on Hanoi's Ta Hien Street wore a deserted look in February 2020, with residents avoiding crowded places over novel coronavirus fears. Photo by VnExpres/Ngoc Thanh.
The heavier fines imposed on drunk driving and the coronavirus outbreak are threatening the sales of Vietnam’s top brewers Sabeco and Habeco.

Hoang Nam, a waiter at a beer pub in Hanoi, has never had so much "free time" as he has had in recent weeks.

Most tables at his restaurant in Cau Giay District are empty, and his boss is becoming increasingly agitated about it, he said.

But fewer customers also mean the 20-year-old waiter’s income is down. "I might have to go back to my hometown and find another job," he said.

Nam’s restaurant is among many in the capital to report dwindling numbers of customers since the start of this year due to the double hit by the increased fines on drunk driving and the epidemic.

With fines of VND40 million ($1,700) for car drivers and the VND8 million ($340) for motorbike drivers the new regulations have caused beer clubs’ sales to halve.

A recent report by stock brokerage Bao Viet Securities said the fines and the epidemic could bring down the sales of the Saigon Beer Alcohol Beverage Corporation (Sabeco), the country’s largest brewer.

Sabeco’s record net profit of VND5.37 trillion ($231.37 milllion) last year could fall by 5.6 percent this year, and its revenue of VND37.9 trillion ($1.63 billion) could fall by 7 percent, it said.

The country’s third largest brewer, Hanoi Beer Alcohol and Beverage Jsc, also estimated January sales could fall by 30 percent year-on-year.

Top brokerage SSI Securities Corporation said the new drunk driving fines and the coronavirus outbreak have made consumers refrain from crowded places and would have a negative impact on the beer industry in Q1.

A Sabeco spokesperson said the beer industry could face challenges in Q1 and would need time to recover as consumers get familiar with new regulations.

Sabeco’s SAB stock is now at an all-time low of around VND180,000 ($7.7) after falling 18 percent this year.

Habeco’s BHN has also fallen by 17 percent in the same period to around VND63,000 ($2.7).

Nam said: "I hope there will be more customers in summer."

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