Carlsberg first-quarter sales beat estimates on Asian market boost

FILE PHOTO: A logo of Carlsberg beer is seen on the entrance of a pub in Brussels, Belgium March 10, 2016. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Danish brewer Carlsberg on Thursday reported a 9 percent jump in first-quarter sales, partly buoyed by Asian drinkers switching to more expensive beers.

Positive currency movements and an acquisition in Cambodia also helped the world’s third-largest brewer, behind Anheuser Busch InBev and Heineken, grow Asian sales by 28 percent year-on-year in the first quarter ended March, it said.

“We had a good start to the year, with particularly strong volume growth in Asia and continued solid progress of our craft and speciality, and alcohol-free portfolios,” Chief Executive Cees ‘t Hart said in the statement.

Carlsberg has taken major cost-cutting measures since Hart took over in 2015, intended to help redress a decade of weakness in its key market Russia. Last year, it returned to sales growth for the first time in three years.

The brewer said its price mix, which indicates if the company sold more of its expensive beers, was positive across all regions, particularly in Eastern Europe.

The brewer lost market share in Russia, where it owns the Baltika brand, as it increased prices at the end of last year and in the first three months of 2019 in an effort to increase profitability.

The company, which did not disclose earnings figures, said it still expected operating profit to grow by a mid-single-digit percentage in 2019, well below last year’s 11 percent.

Sales came in at 13.89 billion Danish crowns ($2.09 billion) for the first quarter, above the 13.56 billion Danish crowns forecast in a Reuters poll of analysts.

Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by Rashmi Aich