DENMARK – Danish brewer Carlsberg has reported double-digit revenue growth, beating analysts’ expectations in the first quarter of 2023 after a strong post-Covid recovery in China and better-than-expected performance in Europe.

In the quarter, the company delivered organic revenue growth of 14.2% to DKr 16.4bn (US$2.4bn), beating analysts’ expectations of DKr 15.9bn.

Volumes grew by 2.1%, with growth in Asia (+4.9%) and central and eastern Europe (+0.9%) offsetting declines in Western Europe (-1%).

Revenue in Western Europe also grew ahead of analysts’ consensus, increasing by 11.5% compared to expectations of 6%, while Asia revenues rose by 12.4%.

In central and eastern Europe, Carlsberg’s revenues grew by nearly 30%, on the back of strong volume growth in Ukraine from the re-opening of its breweries, and price increases taken to offset inflation costs.

Asia had strong revenue growth, increasing 12.4% in the quarter, with total volume growth of 4.9%, benefiting from the end of COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns in China.

“What has changed since the beginning of the year, when we were uncertain about China, is that the situation there has improved significantly,” Chief Executive Cees’t Hart said.

The company pointed out that the International premium brand volume had a growth: Tuborg +1%, Carlsberg +4%, 1664 Blanc +10%, Brooklyn +51%, Grimbergen +6%, and Somersby -8%. Total premium category +2%. Alcohol-free brews -6%.

Cees ‘t Hart applauded the performance of Brooklyn Brewery, the craft beer brand, in which it owns the rights to brew and distribute in Europe and Asia. Volumes of the brand were up to 51% compared to the corresponding period, led by launches in the UK and Poland.

Concerning the price hikes, he said: “We have not seen yet the consequences of significantly high, significantly higher prices in the market with regards to the human reaction.”

“In most of the countries, our increased prices only hit the shelves at the end of February, beginning of March…It is early days, really too early to come to any conclusion.”

The company now expects an organic operating profit growth of between minus 2% and 5% in 2023 from the previous estimate range of minus 5% to plus 5%.

Cees ‘t Hart said that of the group’s three “major risks”; Covid recovery in China, the war in Ukraine, and high inflation, the receding threat of Covid in Asia had the biggest impact on its decision to narrow the guidance.

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