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Carlsberg reports profits rise with Asian growth

Danish brewer Carlsberg on Wednesday forecast rising annual profits, as Asian growth helped it post a fourth-quarter profit despite weak Russian sales.

COPENHAGEN: Danish brewer Carlsberg on Wednesday forecast rising annual profits, as Asian growth helped it post a fourth-quarter profit despite weak Russian sales.

Volumes in its Asian markets "continued to grow while our Western European markets declined by an estimated two percent," the company said in a statement.

Despite the volume decline, profitability in Europe improved thanks to the roll-out of premium brands with higher profit margins.

"The Russian market declined by an estimated eight percent due to outlet restrictions and slower economic growth," the group said.

Beer sales in Russia have been hit by a slower economy and government efforts to battle the country's drink problem, which have included a ban on sales in kiosks and on late night sales, as well as marketing restrictions.

Net profit in the three months ending December 31 rose to 1.13 billion kroner (151 million euros, US$208 million) from 192 million kroner in the same period a year ago.

Stripping out special items, operating profit climbed eight percent to 2.322 billion kroner.

The maker of Tuborg and Kronenbourg 1664 said that in 2014, it expects operating profit to grow organically - meaning that revenue from acquisitions is excluded - by "high single-digit percentages."

Along with its three bigger rivals - AB InBev, SABMiller and Heineken - Carlsberg has been expanding in the fast-growing Asian market.

A new production facility in Myanmar will go onstream in the second half of the year, and in December the group announced the acquisition of eight breweries in China.

But despite a strong performance in Asia, annual profit dropped two percent to 5.47 billion kroner in 2013.

"In the coming years ... we will focus on further strengthening our Russian business (and) develop our Asian business to capture the growth potential of the region, and change our Western Europe business model and organisation," chief executive Joergen Buhl Rasmussen said.

Shares in Carlsberg were 6.3 percent higher in mid-day trading on the Copenhagen stock exchange, where the benchmark index was 0.4 percent higher.

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