Glenlivet and Chivas add a premium to Pernod profits

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DOUBLE-digit growth at premium whisky brands Glenlivet and Chivas Regal has boosted Pernod Ricard's first-quarter sales.

Figures from the French drinks giant, released yesterday, reveal that total sales in the three months to September soared 13 per cent to 1.76 billion (1.39bn), despite the economic slowdown.

Pernod's acquisition of the Absolut vodka brand earlier this year helped lift sales, although they were still 7 per cent higher on an underlying basis.

The group, which ranks as Scotland's second-biggest whisky producer in terms of volumes, highlighted strong growth for its 14 so-called "strategic brands".

Sales of Glenlivet leapt 27 per cent year-on-year, those of Chivas Regal were up 11 per cent, while Ballantine's Scotch was 9 per cent higher. Topping the list was Perrier-Jouet champagne, up 29 per cent. Deputy chief executive Pierre Pringuet said: "If I look at our table of sales figures, I have the impression that it does not reflect the current gloom .... globally we continue to grow."

Pernod said all four geographic regions had contributed to the sales spurt, although the picture within each varied.

At 9 per cent, organic growth was strongest in the Americas, driven by "sharp" gains in Central and South America. There was even "slight growth" recorded in the US, where the economy has been hit hard by the financial crisis, denting consumer spending and confidence.

Two other areas, Europe and "Asia/rest of world", racked up organic growth of 7 per cent each, but the rise was just 1 per cent in Pernod's home country of France – classed as a separate region.

Mirroring the findings of rival Scotch producers, the drinks giant said sales had been strongest in emerging economies such as India and China. Group sales were down in Japan and South Korea.

Within Europe, sales increases were noted in Germany, Scandinavia and Switzerland, with falls recorded in the UK, Ireland and Spain.

Pernod – the world's No 2 spirits group after Diageo – said it expected "strong growth" from recently-acquired Absolut to help it achieve its goal of 10 per cent-plus growth in net profit from recurring operations in the full financial year.

Last month, the group provided similar guidance for the full year but warned that it had failed to get the boost it expected from the Beijing Olympics.

Finance director Emmanuel Babeau said at the time: "The Olympic games did not have the positive effect we expected on consumption. It even had a negative impact, as people stayed at home to watch the games and went out less."

No profit figures were disclosed in yesterday's trading statement. In the 12 months to 30 June, Pernod generated a profit of 1.52bn from recurring operations, roughly in line with forecasts.