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Carlsberg has reported a 1% rise in like-for-like sales in the first quarter of 2009 and has reiterated its full-year sales and profits guidance.

Like-for-like sales rose by 1% to DKK11.8bn (US$2.1bn) for the first three months of 2009, as higher beer prices helped to offset a 5% decline in volume sales, compared to the same period of 2008, Carlsberg said today (6 May).

Net sales increased by 25% when including the contribution of Scottish & Newcastle businesses acquired by Carlsberg last year.

The Danish brewer reported net losses of DKK212m in the quarter, compared to losses of DKK129m in the first quarter of last year.

However, analysts reacted positively to the performance, due to a rise in operating profits, to DKK788m from DKK388.

Carlsberg said that the figures are in-line with its expectations. The firm reiterated its full-year profits and sales guidance.

CEO Jorgen Buhl Rasmussen said: "In the traditionally small first quarter of the year, we have continued to focus on reducing costs and improving efficiency to protect earnings and improve cash flow."

Trevor Stirling, analyst with Sanford Bernstein, said: "Overall results showed weaker than expected performance in North & Western Europe, but Eastern Europe ahead of our expectations."

Like-for-like beer sales by volume fell by 8% and 5% in Western and Eastern Europe respectively, but price increases helped like-for-like net sales in Eastern Europe to rise by 7%, compared to a decline of 3% in Western countries.

In Russia, Carlsberg's Baltika subsidiary increased its beer market share to 40% in the quarter, up from 38.4% last year.

"We believe this highlights the strength of the Baltika brand family, growing volumes in the top end of the market," said Stirling.


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