Uncertainty in Russia, Eastern Europe causes beer sales drop for Carlsberg

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Beer sales in Russia, Ukraine and other Eastern European countries are down and expected to keep falling as political tensions weigh on the region's economy, brewer Carlsberg said Wednesday.

The Danish company owns a range of brands across the world, including Baltika Breweries, based in its vast Russian market. Consumers there are drinking less due to uncertainty about the country's economy, which some experts estimate is sliding into recession.

Beer consumption dropped 7 percent in Russia and 10 percent in Ukraine, where Moscow is accused of supporting a militant separatist rebellion. Adding to Ukraine's market woes was a 43-percent increase in the beer tax as the government there tries to steady its public finances.

Carlsberg said its Eastern European markets overall are "increasingly challenging and uncertain," and expects them to deteriorate further in the second part of 2014 especially with more consumption declines in Russia and Ukraine.

The Copenhagen-based group said that "regardless of the challenging Russian macro-economy, we kept investing in our brands and maintained a high level of commercial activities to drive value and volume in the region."

The uncertainty kept a lid on sales growth, with Carlsberg's overall revenue edging up only slightly in the second quarter, to 19.2 billion kroner ($3.4 billion) from 19.06 billion kroner in the year-earlier period. Net profit increased to 2.2 billion kroner ($39.4 million), from 2.1 billion kroner.

Carlsberg's full-year net profit was expected "to decline by mid- to high-single-digit percentages."

Shares in Carlsberg dropped nearly 4.3 percent to 516 kroner in early morning trading in Copenhagen.

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