Danish brewer Carlsberg has reported quarterly sales slightly below expectations and said it expects operating profit to rise between 3% and 10% in 2021.
Fourth-quarter sales for the world's third-largest brewer stood at DKK 12.5 billion (€1.7 billion), while analysts expected an average of DKK 13.1 billion, according to a Refinitiv survey.
Overall, beer sales suffered during the pandemic due to the coronavirus and Carlsberg saw its annual organic sales decline 8.4% to a five-year low, while volume sales were down 3.8%.
Carlsberg brand volumes were down 10%, the group said, with Tuborg down 9%, 1664 Blanc up 8%, Grimbergen down 2% and Somersby up 2%.
Elsewhere, its craft and specialty brew arm saw volume growth of 1%, while alcohol-free beer volumes rose by 11%.
The brewer's business activity, which covers sales in bars, restaurants and nightclubs, fell by more than 20% last year due to containment measures put in place to stem the epidemic.
“While the pandemic is not yet behind us and we don’t know how long it will remain a challenge in 2021, we believe that Carlsberg will emerge even stronger from the crisis," commented Cees ’t Hart says. "During 2020, we adjusted our cost base to a new reality and implemented new ways of working. These changes have led to a more flexible company, making us optimistic about our ability to deliver on our longterm strategic priorities.
“The group’s financial situation remains strong. Despite COVID-19, we improved our operating margin, delivered strong cash flow, increased dividend per share, carried out a sizeable share buyback programme and strengthened the business through acquisitions. We’re pleased that the Supervisory Board will recommend a further increase in the dividend for 2020 in addition to initiating a new share buy-back programme.”