Carlsberg Breweries A/S has indicated that it believes the much-feared slowdown in the Russian beer market is not as severe as previously believed.

In an interview with the news agency Dow Jones, Carlsberg chief executive Nils Smedegaard said the company saw "a clear growth trend in 2003."

A series of lower-than-expected growth forecasts for the Russian beer market, including one from Carlsberg subsidiary Baltika at the end of last year, cast a shadow over the targets of a number of producers.

"We first predicted between 10% and 13% growth, but in the first half of 2002 we started seeing growth sometimes of 40%. But it turned out this was stockpiling by wholesalers," Andersen said.

"Then we saw a decline in the third quarter, partly also due the cold weather coming on sooner. But we still expect 10%-12% growth last year," he said.

He went on to say that while demand may not continue to surge in the way it has done in the last few years, he expected growth to remain healthy and well ahead of Western Europe.
 
Carlsberg Breweries controls Baltika through Baltic Beverage Holdings, a 50-50 joint venture with the UK brewer Scottish & Newcastle.