Thirsty Russians lift Carlsberg sales

Thirsty Russians lift Carlsberg sales
An analyst said Carlsberg's statement was "what everyone has been looking for." Photo: Carlsberg Group
Danish brewer Carlsberg said on Wednesday that it had "a solid start to the year" as quarterly revenue edged up two percent in local currencies, helped by gains in the troubled Russian market.
Organic revenue in the first three months of the year rose two percent to 13.47 billion kroner (€1.81 billion, $2.06 billion) but slid three percent to 13 billion kroner when taking into account negative currency effects.
Declining volumes in China were partly offset by a 20 percent rise in revenue in Eastern Europe, where volumes as well as sales of more expensive brands were higher.
“The Russian volume growth was mainly due to easy comparisons with last year when we took significant measures to reduce stock levels at distributors,” the company said in a statement.
Renowned for their hard-drinking habits, Russians in recent years have started cutting down on booze as the government has tightened controls to curb rampant alcoholism.
The crackdown has hit sales at Carlsberg's Baltika brewery — the largest beer maker in Russia — along with the impact of lower oil prices and the Ukraine crisis on the country's economy.
Wednesday's trading statement was a sign that “Carlsberg has fared better than their competitors in Russia,” Alm. Brand Markets analyst Michael Friis Jorgensen told news agency Ritzau.
“It is a positive signal and that is what everyone has been looking for,” he added.
Revenue in Western Europe, which accounts for two thirds of revenue, fell by three percent organically after British supermarket chain Tesco pulled Carlsberg products from its shelves as part of a major cull of the number of brands it sells.
In November the Danish group said it was cutting 2,000 white-collar jobs, or around 15 percent of its workforce, affecting primarily Russia, China and Britain.
Carlsberg, which did not disclose a quarterly profit or loss, maintained its annual forecast of “low single-digit percentages organic operating profit growth.”

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