Carlsberg has insisted it has no plans to quit the UK despite its position as the number four brewer in what remains a challenging market.

In an exclusive interview with just-drinks, Carlsberg president and CEO Nils S. Andersen said earlier this week that the Danish brewing giant would retain a brewing presence in the UK.

Carlsberg has two breweries in the UK, where it has had a manufacturing presence since 1973. Andersen said Carlsberg would not follow the lead of rival brewer Heineken, which does not have brewery in the UK and exports its beer from the Netherlands.

"That's a recommendation that we sometimes receive from our competitors via the press or via analysts but it's a pretty dumb suggestion," Andersen said. "We make money; Heineken is losing money. Why would we want to do that? It would probably be better for the other three if we withdrew from the market but I'm sad to say we don't have such plans."

Carlsberg enjoyed rising sales and earnings in the UK during 2006, on the back of rising off-trade sales and a move to cut some 26 jobs in the country. Rising sales came despite Carlsberg's decision to increase the price of its beer in the UK, a bold move given the fierce price competition, particularly in the UK off-trade.

However, with UK beer sales stagnant, some industry watchers have questioned whether the market can support four viable large brewers. Scottish & Newcastle leads the UK market, with InBev UK and Coors Brewers battling it out for the number two spot.

Nevertheless, Andersen believes Carlsberg remains in a "pretty good position" in the UK. He said: "We are profitable, we do have some progress in profits, we have growing market share, we have a pretty strong brand in Carlsberg and a pretty strong ale brand in Tetley's - and a good cost structure. We see ourselves in a reasonably good position, especially because we don't have too much money invested there."

He added: "The UK is not going to be our most important profit-maker for a long time but that's not the intention either. We have to accept that we're number four and try to do a good return on capital employed."