Baltika Breweries, Russia's leading brewer and subsidiary of Carlsberg, has reported a 5% rise in net sales and an 18% rise in net profits for the first quarter of 2009.

Net sales reached RUB17.7bn (US$543.5m) for the first three months of the year, compared to RUB16.8bn in the same period of last year, Baltika said today (7 May).

Net profits rose by 18.5% to RUB2.5bn, said the brewer, which is part of Baltic Beverages Holding, previously a joint venture in Eastern Europe between Carlsberg and Scottish & Newcastle and now wholly-owned by Carlsberg.

The group attributed the bulk of profits growth to cost savings initiatives across the business.

Baltika increased its beer market share to 40% in the quarter, up from 38.4% last year, Carlsberg said in its own first quarter results yesterday.

Baltika's weighting towards the premium beer sector helped the firm to outperform Russia's beer market, which has been hit by weakening consumer confidence as a result a slowing economy. Baltika volume sales slipped by 5% for the three months, against an average 7% drop in beer volume sales across the market.

Anton Artemiev, president of Baltika Breweries, predicted an improvement in Russia's beer market in 2009.

"Regardless of the current 7% decline in beer market in Q1, we keep our forecast for the full-year market slowdown around -2%, based on our expectations of some improvement in consumption trends going forward," he said.

"In spite of the unfavourable background in Q1, the company remains resilient and is demonstrating growth in profit and in profit margins."