The Malta Independent 17 November 2017, Friday

Carlsberg lifts profits but volume dips

Tuesday, 22 August 2017, 11:13 Last update: about 4 months ago

Carlsberg has delivered profits ahead of expectations but investors fretted about warnings of a tougher second half of the year from the Danish brewer as well as a lack of revenue growth. 

Cees 't Hart, the Dutch-born chief executive charged with turning around the world's fourth-largest brewer, yesterday hailed the strong rise in first-half earnings as a sign that his restructuring was bearing fruit. 

But investors were disappointed that a 20 per cent rise in operating profits to DKr4.1bn ($645.5m) did not translate into an increase in full-year profit guidance. 

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Carlsberg instead reiterated its forecast of a mid single-digit increase in operating profit.

Mr Hart said that was due to a number of factors, including relatively bad weather in the Nordics in July denting sales and tough comparisons in the crucial Russian market in the third quarter. 

Shares in Carlsberg were down 3 per cent to DKr671 at yesterday lunchtime trading. 

Carlsberg has struggled in recent years, weighed down by its status as the biggest brewer in Russia where there has been a steady assault of regulatory measures designed to reduce beer consumption.

The latest was a ban on 1.5-litre plastic bottles earlier this year, which led to a 9 per cent volume decrease in the first half for Carlsberg in eastern Europe.  That outpaced a market decline of 5 per cent in Russia due to Carlsberg focusing on "value [while] our competitors took a volume approach", according to Mr Hart. 

The competition in Russia is getting fiercer, with Anheuser-Busch InBev and Turkey's Anadolu Efes agreeing to merge their local operations.

Asked if the Russian market was likely to get worse before it gets better, Mr Hart said: "I would say so. It's not new news." 

Mr Hart, who has been in his position since 2015, said he was happy with Carlsberg's performance in operating profit and gross margin - a gauge of profitability - but conceded it needed to do more in terms of volume.

In the six months to June 30 volumes fell 2 per cent on a like-for-like basis, which Carlsberg said was mainly due to the slide in Russia. Net revenues increased just 2 per cent in the first half to DKr31.8bn, held back by a ban on selling alcohol in India within 500 metres of national highway as well as the Russian market.

"I'm not concerned about it but I'm not satisfied with it," Mr Hart said about the lack of top-line growth.  However, he pointed to investments from the restructuring programme bearing fruit, such as a 25 per cent increase in sales of craft and speciality beers.


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