COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Danish brewer Carlsberg posted fourth-quarter sales above expectations on Wednesday, driven by a strong growth in China, but said it sees 2019 organic growth below last year’s level.

Carlsberg, the world’s third-largest brewer behind Anheuser Busch InBev and Heineken, said it expects operating profit to grow by mid-single-digit percentage in 2019, well below last year’s growth of 11 percent.

“We delivered a strong set of results for 2018,” Chief Executive Cees ‘t Hart said in a statement, referring to growth in sales, stronger profit margins and reduced debt.

The company said its price mix, which indicates if the company sold more of its expensive beers, was positive in most markets, most notably in China where it sold more of its premium beer brands.

The Chinese market is driven by international premium beer brands, which sell at two to three times the price of mainstream brands.

Sales stood at 13.95 billion Danish crowns ($2.13 billion) in the fourth quarter, above the 13.51 billion crowns expected by analysts in a Reuters poll.

The company said it would initiate a 12-month share buy-back programme of 4.5 billion crowns.

Carlsberg’s board will propose a dividend of 18 crowns per share, slightly below the 18.30 crowns expected by analysts in the poll.

($1 = 6.5510 Danish crowns)

Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu


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