Carlsberg has reported first-quarter sales slightly above expectations, with the group noting that while its Western Europe business was impacted by continued lockdowns, growth in China was strong.
On the back of this performance, the brewer has increased its minimum expectations for profit growth this year.
Carlsberg said it now expects operating profit to grow between 5% and 10% this year, compared with its previous guidance of 3% to 10% growth.
Sales between January and March stood at DKK 13.0 billion (€1.75 billion), compared with DKK 12.8 billion estimated by analysts in a poll gathered by the company.
Organic revenue declined 14.9% in Western Europe, with Asia seeing 30.4% growth, and Central and Eastern Europe up 3.1%
“The group had a strong start to the year in Asia and Central & Eastern Europe, while Western Europe was significantly impacted by the extensive lockdowns and restrictions across the region," commented chief executive Cees ’t Hart.
"With COVID-19 continuing to be a challenge in many of our markets, our geographical exposure showed its strength, as strong volume growth in several markets across all three regions more than offset challenging circumstances in other markets."
The brewer has also launched a new share buy-back programme, aiming to purchase shares worth DKK 1 billion.
“Although the uncertainty as to how the pandemic will evolve in the coming quarters remains high, we’re pleased that we can raise the bottom end of our earnings guidance and that we’re today launching the second quarterly share buy-back programme," said ’t Hart.
The group recently announced that it had cut its carbon emissions by 7%, as part of its Together Towards Zero sustainability plan.