Carlsberg reports first quarterly sales decline in two years

Danish brewer Carlsberg has reported its first quarterly sales decline in two years as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bars and restaurants in many of the firm’s key markets have been closed while authorities battle to stem the coronavirus spread. Carlsberg has managed to increase sales in supermarkets and other retailers, but that has not offset the losses in its global on-trade business.

It suspended its outlook for 2020 on April 2 due to the chaos wrought by the pandemic. It has now reported that revenue declined 6.8% to 12.9 billion kroner during the first quarter of the year, the three months to March 31.

Carlsberg said it suffered a 7.6% volume decrease during the quarter, and a 7.4% decline in organic revenue.

Asia was the hardest hit region. Carlsberg reported a 12.4% organic revenue decline there, compared to a 6.9% decrease in Western Europe and a 2.2% increase in Eastern Europe.

However, there were some small pockets of growth. Craft and speciality beer volume grew 1% and alcohol-free beer sales were up 5% during the quarter, while 1664 Blanc sales also grew by 4% and Grimbergen was up 5%.

Chief executive Cees ’t Hart praised the hard work and positive attitude displayed by staff, but warned that Q2 sales would be even weaker.

“While we’re starting to see signs of recovery in our largest market, China, and initial signs of governments cautiously lifting restrictions in some Western European markets, other markets remain in lockdown,” he said. “Nevertheless, social-distancing requirements will continue and will impact consumer behaviour. Consequently, volumes will decline further in Q2.

“Carlsberg remains in strong financial health. To mitigate the impact of weaker volumes, we’re reinforcing our cost focus and maintaining a strict focus on cash and liquidity, while ensuring that this will not compromise the long-term health of our brands and our organisation.”