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London — China’s New Year celebrations drove a surge in demand for Pernod Ricard’s spirits, helping the world’s second-largest distiller boost its full-year earnings forecast and pledge bigger rewards for shareholders by overhauling its dividend policy. Growth in profit from recurring operations will be about 6%, the top end of a previous target of between 4% and 6%, Paris-based Pernod Ricard said in a statement on Thursday. Its shares rose as much as 1.8% in early trading in Paris. The maker of Chivas Regal whisky also plans to pay a bigger share of its earnings in the form of dividends to shareholders, reflecting the company’s accelerating profit growth and reduced debt load. Pernod Ricard will decide on a payout between 37% and 50% of profit at the AGM in November, CEO Alexandre Ricard said by phone, as part of a new programme that will see annual payouts progressively lifted to about 50% of earnings over the next three years from a previous rate of about one third. "The rational...

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