French drinks maker Pernod Ricard, after stellar first-quarter results, warns that full-year growth may moderate somewhat. Picture: REUTERS/CHRISTIAN HARTMANN
French drinks maker Pernod Ricard, after stellar first-quarter results, warns that full-year growth may moderate somewhat. Picture: REUTERS/CHRISTIAN HARTMANN

Paris — Spirits group Pernod Ricard posted a stronger-than-expected 10.4% rise in first-quarter underlying sales, helped by higher demand in China and India, and despite slower growth in its main market in the US.

Pernod, the world’s second-biggest spirits group behind Britain’s Diageo, however, cautioned that sales growth would moderate in the full year, notably for its Martell cognac in Asia.

It also warned of a slightly negative foreign exchange impact on its recurring operating profit.

For the first quarter ended September 30, Pernod reported sales of £2.387bn, a like-for-like rise of 10.4% that beat analysts’ estimates for 7.4% like-for-like growth in an Inquiry Financial poll for Reuters.

Pernod said it benefited from strong demand in China and from a low comparison in India a year ago, where it has faced setbacks that include a ban on liquor outlets. The group, whose brands include Absolut vodka and Jameson whiskey, said sales in India rose 34% in the quarter, having previously risen 14% in its past financial year.

In China, sales rose 17% last year and leapt to 27% in the first quarter, led by strong demand for Martell across all price segments and by double-digit growth in Chivas whisky.

Pernod said it would benefit in the first half from the earlier timing of the Chinese new year, but growth would then moderate as Martell would come back in line with its medium-term, high single-digit volume growth target.

In the US, where sales were up 2% in the quarter, Jameson whiskey continued its double-digit growth but the Absolut vodka brand was still in decline. Pernod tied the overall slower growth in the US to various shipment phases, but said the underlying trend remained broadly in line with the market, which was growing by 4%.

Pernod said that despite an uncertain geopolitical and monetary environment, it was keeping its forecast for a 5% to 7% organic rise in full-year profit from recurring operations after last year’s 6.3% growth.

Reuters

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