Copenhagen: Carlsberg, the world’s fourth-largest brewer, posted a rise in first-quarter profits that met expectations on Wednesday and said it gained market share in Eastern Europe and Asia, boosting its shares.
Operating profits at the firm, which brews Tuborg, Holsten, Baltika and Kronenbourg beers as well as its own brand, rose to 788 million crowns ($142 million) as it pressed ahead with cost-cutting programmes.
The headline figure compared with a year-ago 388 million and a mean forecast in a Reuters poll for 785 million.
Group sales in the quarter - the slowest of the year for brewers - rose to 11.8 billion crowns from a year-ago 9.44 billion, versus an expected 12.1 billion.
Carlsberg, which last year bought half of British rival Scottish and Newcastle, said markets had been challenging but repeated its outlook for full-year 2009 operating profits above 9 billion crowns and sales at around 63 billion.
Beer drinking has traditionally been seen as relatively resilient to economic downturns, but conditions have become dire also for brewers in the current global crisis, and many - including Carlsberg - are cutting costs.
The firm said it gained market share in its growth markets of Eastern Europe and Asia in the quarter. Its market share on its biggest, but saturated, Western European market had been unchanged.
Net debt rose to 45.8 billion crowns in the quarter from 44.2 at the turn of the year.
Carlsberg said it expected the Russian market to shrink by 2% this year but its market-leading Baltika brand to maintain volumes in 2009. It said Baltika grew its market share in Russia to 39.9% in the quarter, from 38.4% in 2008.
Its overall market share in Russia, which accounts for about half of group operating profits, was 38.3% in 2008. The world’s second-fastest growing beer market behind China in 2002-2007 fell 1% in 2008.
Carlsberg said its total beer volumes increased by 34%.
World no.3 brewer Heineken, which bought the other half of S&N last year, last month posted a bigger-than-expected drop in volume of beer shipped in the quarter and said the impact and duration of the downturn remained unclear.