Heineken NV, the world's third- biggest brewer by volume, said first-quarter volume declined as an excise tax increase hurt sales in Russia, while Nigerian instability caused slower growth in Africa.

Volume fell by 5.3 per cent in the three months through January, excluding acquisitions and disposals, the Amsterdam- based company said on Wednesday. That missed the median estimate of 10 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg for a 4.8 per cent decline. Revenue slipped by 3.5 per cent to ¤2.94bn, less than the ¤2.99bn median estimate.

Heineken gets about 20 per cent of its revenue from central and eastern Europe, where volume fell by 14 per cent after Russia tripled the excise tax on beer to help curb alcohol consumption. In Africa, the source of about 12 per cent of group sales, a decline in Nigerian consumption led to a slower pace of growth.

'The weakness can be put down to central and eastern Europe, which was expected, and to a slowdown in Africa, which wasn't,' an analyst at Evolution Securities, Mr. Andrew Holland, said by telephone. He has a 'neutral' rating on the stock.