Worst over for Russia, Asia deals eyed: Carlsberg CEO
With the worst of weakness in the Russian beer market behind it, Carlsberg expects this year to be less challenging than last and will continue its push into fast-growing Asia.
Group beer volumes declined 2 percent last year, driven by a 3 percent fall in Western Europe and a 5 percent drop in Eastern Europe.
Difficulties in Russia such as the slowing economy and laws banning the sale of alcohol from street kiosks, led to the beer market in the country declining 8 percent.
But Jørgen Buhl Rasmussen, CEO of Carlsberg Group, told CNBC in a TV interview on Wednesday that he is optimistic about the Russian market.
(Watch more: Carlsberg CEO:Asia Will Deliver Strong Growth)
"I'm feeling very good about our performance in Russia in a difficult environment. If you look at our performance, we have grown market share, we have improved mix in terms of getting more and more premium products out to the consumer. We are doing a lot of the right things in a very challenging market," Rasmussen said.
"I am certainly a lot more hopeful about the Russian beer market going forward. We still expect 2014 to be fairly challenging but a lot less than 2013."
Carlsberg posted operating profit of 9.84 billion kroner ($1.81 billion), up 1 percent from the year before. A strong showing in the fourth quarter helped boost earnings as operating profit grew 8 percent. The beverage maker proposed a 33 percent increase in its dividend to 8 crowns per share for 2013.
The growing Asian market saw stellar growth for Carlsberg, though the company said growing beer volumes in Asia were not enough to offset the decline in Eastern and Western Europe.
Beer sales saw a 12 percent surge in 2013 while operating profit in the region was up 14 percent.
(Read more: Russia gives Carlsberg a hangover)
Asia has been a key target for Carlsberg, with the company recently boosting its stake in China's Chongqing Brewery to 60 percent. Carlsberg also said last year that it would fully buy out Chongqing Beer Group Assets Management for 1.56 billion yuan ($257 million).
"We have a broad footprint in Asia…In all those markets we are doing extremely well by rolling out our international brands," Rasmussen told CNBC.
"We have expanded our footprint in the China region which also should be promising for the future. I've always said M&A is on the agenda…Asia will be a key focus area. That's the case today, it was the case a year ago, two years ago.
Carlsberg expects to deliver high-single-digit organic operating profit growth and mid-single-digit growth in reported adjusted net results in 2014, the company said in a statement.
Shares in Carlsberg provisionally closed higher by 7 percent on Wednesday.
—By CNBC's Arjun Kharpal: Follow him on Twitter