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Carlsberg share price down, CEO to step down amid falling earnings

Carlsberg A/S announced changes at the helm as the worlds fourth-biggest brewer projected lower profit in the year ahead on problems in Russia and Ukraine.

Chief Executive Jorgen Buhl Rasmussen will step down from the lead position and be replaced by Cees ’t Hart, marking the first non-Danish CEO since the company was established in 1847.

Mr. Rasmussen, who was at the helm for seven years, had asked to be relocated to a non-executive role in the company as he turns 60 this year.

Mr. Hart, currently a CEO of one of the largest dairy companies in the world Royal FrieslandCampina, will take the wheel on June 15, the Copenhagen-based company said in a statement on Wednesday.

Mr. Harts task to lift sales and rejuvenate growth would be difficult as the company, which has an international reach of more than 150 markets, has faced difficulties since it made Russia its largest market.

In 2004 Carlsberg acquired the Baltika brand, which now has around 38% of the Russian beer market. Most recently, Carlsbergs performance has been hit by the substantial decrease in value of the ruble.

In a separate statement Carlsberg reported a net profit of DKK 278 million for the three months ended December 31, a significant decrease compared to the DKK 1.25 billion the company stated for the same period a year earlier.

The figure also compares to the DKK 981 million estimate projected by analysts.

Revenue in the quarter slid 8% to DKK 14.33 billion versus DKK 15.66 billion a year ago. Sales in Eastern Europe plunged 32%, as Russias instability took a tool on performance.

However, Carlsberg said the country offered “long-term growth opportunities” and that it would boost cost cuts in the region in order to counter the increased uncertainty and volatility.

Margin in the region fell from 28.7% to 20.1%, which led to an overall drop from 15.2% to 12.5% in the fourth quarter.

Carlsberg proposed a 13% boost to its dividend to DKK 9 per share.

For 2015 the company projected to achieve operating profit growth of mid- to high-single digit, driven by improvements in Western Europe and Asia.

However, the company warned that gains would be capped by the expected GPD decline in Russia and Ukraine.

Carlsberg gained 2.29% on Tuesday and closed at DKK 535.50 in Copenhagen. On Wednesday the stock fell 1.59% to DKK 527.00 at 13:56 GMT, marking a one-year decrease of 3.39%. The company is valued at DKK 82.59 billion.

According to the Financial Times, the 26 analysts offering 12-month price targets for Carlsberg have a median target of DKK 500.00, with a high estimate of DKK 745.00 and a low estimate of DKK 400.00. The median estimate represents a 6.63% decrease from the last closing price.

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