David Cameron visit may not solve Indian tax row

SCOTLAND’s second-biggest distiller has warned against the industry getting carried away with hopes of David Cameron’s trade mission to India heralding a near-term cut in duties on spirits.

Pierre Pringuet, chief executive of Pernod Ricard, said yesterday there were “positive noises” from the Prime Minister’s visit and “some anticipation that it [a duty relaxation] might be signed soon”.

But Pringuet, whose group’s Chivas Brothers subsidiary handles its Scotch whisky products, added: “I’m cautious because it’s not the first time we have heard these positive noises [in India]. It’s progressing, but agreement has not been reached yet.”

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However, he added that even if a deal on whisky duty cuts failed to be struck Pernod had “a local business developing extremely fast” in that country.

Pernod Ricard’s latest trading results, released last week, showed that sales of local Indian whiskies jumped 21 per cent in the six months to end-December.

Pringuet also claimed that if the G20 countries failed in any concerted bid to stop currency wars amid a tough global economy it was unlikely to have a big impact on Pernod, whose Scotch brands include Ballantine’s, Chivas Regal and The Glenlivet.

“There might be a shortfall, perhaps 2 to 3 per cent of our profits, but it would not be a question of losses,” he added.

In the latest six months, Pernod’s sales rose 6 per cent to €4.9bn (£4.3bn), on profits up 6 per cent to just under €1.5bn.