Global brewery group Carlsberg has seen its net revenue rise by 3% for the year, the first time the company’s sales have risen in the last three years.

The brewery recorded net revenues of DKK 62.5 billion ($9.53bn)across 2018, from its core and craft beer brands such as Tuborg and Kronenbourg as well as its low-alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks.

The company said that warm weather in Western Europe and the 2018 World Cup were contributing factors to the 3% net revenue rise and 3.6% sales volume growth in the region over the year

Sales volumes also rose by 19% in Indiaand 15% in China, while  revenue increased by 3% in Russia.

Carlsberg launched Birell as the Group’s ‘first global alcohol-free drink’ in 2018. The company’s overall alcohol-free beer portfolio grew by 33% in Western Europe, while its Balitka 0 brand increased by 35% in Russia.

The beermakers’s annual financial report  showed the Carlsberg Group sells around 75% of its volumes  in 25 markets across Western Europe, Asia and Eastern Europe. In Western Europe, the company improved its margins and grew operating profit organically by 15%, while in Asia it accelerated organic growth through premiumisation by 13.3%.

Carlsberg CEO Cees’t Hart says: “We delivered a strong set of results for 2018. In line with our ambitions for SAIL ’22, we  accelerated top-line growth, improved margins, delivered a strong cash flow and reduced debt even further. At the same time, we invested significant resources in our brands and activities, and we continue to target top-line growth and profit improvement in the coming years.

“We’re pleased that, on the back of the strong results, the Supervisory Board will recommend a 13% increase in dividend to DKK 18 per share and initiate a share buy-back programme of DKK 4.5bn, leading to cash returns to shareholders for the year of DKK 7.2bn.”

Carlsberg grew its operations by investing in a 28.5% stake in Super Bock Group owner Viacer, the acquisition of a majority stake in Cambodian brewer Cambrew Limited, and the full acquisition of Olympic Brewery -the second-largest brewer in Greece.