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Carlsberg up in Europe and Asia

Wednesday, February 19 07:51:48

Carlsberg raised its dividend by a third after growth in western Europe and Asia offset sluggish sales in Russia to drive earnings higher than expected in the fourth quarter.

The Danish brewer, the world's fourth largest, said today its revenue grew by a greater than expected 2 percent in western Europe, a beer market that has been declining for years, and by 11 percent in Asia.

Carlsberg, the market leader in Russia, has suffered from a slowing of the economy there and a law banning the sale of alcohol from street kiosks, which together led to an 8 percent slump in the Russian beer market last year.

Carlsberg's net revenue fell 11 percent in eastern Europe in the fourth quarter, a larger drop than expected.

"The Carlsberg Group delivered solid earnings growth driven by strong and focused execution in spite of an overall challenging macro-environment and not least the negative market impact in Russia from the outlet restrictions," Chief Executive Jorgen Buhl Rasmussen said in the report.

For 2014, the brewer expects its operating profit to grow at a high single-digit percentage rate.

An 8 percent increase would correspond to an operating profit of around 10.5 billion crowns, slightly higher than the 10.35 seen in the poll.

Carlsberg said it expected mid-single-digit percentage growth in reported adjusted net income, with Russian beer market volume falling by a low single-digit percentage amount.

For 2013, it proposed a 33 percent increase in its dividend to 8 crowns per share, more than the 7.02 crowns expected in the poll.

Analyst Morten Imsgard from Sydbank said he expected Carlsberg shares to open higher due to the increased dividend payout.

Fourth-quarter operating profit before special items was 2.32 billion Danish crowns ($427.5 million), higher than 2.18 billion expected by analysts in the poll ( C ) Reuters