Carlsberg losses expand in 1st qtr

COPENHAGEN: Carlsberg A/S on Wednesday said its losses widened in the first quarter as the Danish brewer took a hit from higher financing costs related to its joint acquisition with Heineken of Scottish & Newcastle.

Carlsberg, whose beer brands include Tuborg, Baltika and Kronenbourg, posted a net loss of 212 million kroner ($38 million) compared with a loss of 129 million kroner in the first quarter of 2008.

Sales jumped 26 percent to 11.8 billion kroner from 9.4 billion kroner in the year-ago period.

Carlsberg shares rose 7.2 percent to 301 kroner ($55.6) in Copenhagen.

The Copenhagen-based company said its net financial costs in the quarter were 904 million kroner, compared with 470 million kroner last year. The increase was caused by a higher level of debt due to the acquisition of a stake in S&N as well as currency fluctuations, Carlsberg said.

The Danish brewer said restructuring costs also grew in the quarter.

"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," Chief Executive Joergen Buhl Rasmussen said.

Carlsberg bought S&N in 2007 together with Dutch rival Heineken NV in a move to gain full control of Baltic Beverages Holding, or BBH - Russia's biggest beer producer.

The company said it gained market share in Eastern Europe and Asia, but said it expects a "modest decline" in the Russian market this year.

Buhl Rasmussen said the group's result "was in line with our expectations in a market environment that was as challenging as anticipated, and we remain on track to achieve our full year guidance." Carlsberg said it expects full-year sales of 63 billion kroner and a net profit of at least 6 billion kroner.