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Carlsberg Strike May Leave Danes Without Soccer Beer

Some stores have run out of beer
A truck containing Carlsberg goods passes a sign bearing the company logo at the Carlsberg brewery. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe /Bloomberg

Carlsberg A/S, the Danish brewer that sponsors the England soccer team, may be unable to provide beer to fans in its home country at next month’s World Cup because of a strike by local workers.

Some stores have run out of beer as the strike by Carlsberg’s 1,100 Danish employees, including drivers and factory and warehouse staff, today entered a 12th day, Jens Bekke, spokesman for the Valby, Denmark-based brewer said in a phone interview.

“This strike is turning expensive for us,” Bekke said, declining to specify how much the stoppage has cost. “The World Cup is obviously a main sales event.”

About 500 workers walked out of Carlsberg’s Fredericia brewery in western Denmark on May 6, protesting that they wouldn’t get a pay increase this year. An additional 600 employees in eastern Denmark joined the strike eight days later. Some stores in western Denmark have run out of the brewer’s Carlsberg and Tuborg beers, and outlets in the eastern part of the country will run dry “in a few days,” according to Bekke.

Carlsberg, which sells the equivalent of more than 100 million bottles of beer globally every day, gets 2 percent to 3 percent of its sales volume from Denmark. Its biggest domestic rivals are Royal Unibrew A/S, the Nordic region’s second-largest brewer, and low-cost producer Harboes Bryggeri A/S.

‘Exchange of Views’

“This is an illegal strike, so we want the workers to go back to work before we can even begin to talk again,” Bekke said. The dispute will “probably and hopefully” end before the monthlong tournament starts on June 11, as a Danish labor court has imposed fines on the striking workers, he said.

The workers are willing to have an “exchange of views” with management, Hans Andersen, representative for the striking workers, said by phone. The employees have asked for a 1.6 percent pay rise this year and again in 2011, while Carlsberg has offered no increase this year and 1.25 percent next year.

“There are many losers in this situation,” said Andersen. “The company is losing money, Carlsberg management is losing and we are losing because of the fines. And the customers, who can’t get their Carlsberg beer, are losing out, too. The only winners are our rivals.”

Royal Unibrew, whose brands include Faxe and Ceres, “is ready to step up deliveries” if Carlsberg’s strike continues, Hans Savonije, head of Northern Europe operations at the Fakse, Denmark-based brewery, said by phone. “We haven’t registered any increase in demand yet, but if we do, we can act.”

Carlsberg fell 11.5 kroner, or 2.4 percent, to 468.9 kroner at 3:29 p.m. in Copenhagen trading, more than a 1.2 percent decline in Denmark’s all-share KAX index. Royal Unibrew shares fell 0.2 percent and Harboes declined 0.9 percent.

Denmark’s soccer team is grouped with Cameroon, Japan and the Netherlands in the world’s biggest sporting event, which this year takes place in South Africa.

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