Although Carlsberg A/S saw a 15% rise in full-year operating profit today, the good news was offset by a weak forecast for 2003, which sent its shares down.

The group saw operating profit rise to DKK3.78 billion from DKK3.29 billion on the back of a 3% hike in sales to DKK35.54 billion, figures that met the market’s expectations. And net profit was up 10% to DKK1.03 billion, though net profit for the fourth quarter slipped 5.6% to DKK119m.

Sales were up 3%, with Eastern Europe in particular performing well, registering a rise of 28%. Western Europe was up 4%. And in terms of profit Western Europe performed best, especially the Nordic home markets and the UK.

Operating profit for Western Europe was up 27% to DKK2.27 billion. Operating profit for Eastern Europe rose 6% to DKK1.27 billion, but the operating margin fell to 17% from 20.6%, due in part to ongoing problems with Turk Tuborg its Turkish operation.

Although the company’s core business Carlsberg Breweries is expected to continue performing well in 2003, with a rise in operating profit of 5-10% - growth is forecast once more to be good in Western And Eastern Europe - the overall holding company was forecasting a fall of 10% in net profit.

The downturn, the company said was in part due to a fall off of extraordinary income that boosted 2002 numbers by DKK118 million.

Beverage analyst with German bank WestLB Panmure Stuart Price warned: “Carlsberg Group expects net income for 2003 to fall by 10%. With there being little opportunity for Carlsberg to be acquired and/or participate in the consolidation of the global beer market, there is no real value rationale for holding this stock. Our target price and recommendation is under review.”