William Grant profits rise despite sales slide

Family-owned Scotch whisky distiller William Grant & Sons has shrugged off the headwinds of difficult export markets and the impact of negative foreign exchange rates to post record annual earnings.

Picture: PA

Profit after tax lifted 4 per cent to £139.8 million in 2014, up from £134.5m the previous year. The company said that, although turnover fell nearly 17 per cent to £933.2m, “this was entirely due to a planned reduction in the distribution of third party agency brands”.

Stella David, chief executive at William Grant & Sons, said: “This success was driven by our focus on brand building and investing for the long term. The business and our brands are well positioned to continue their growth in 2015 and beyond.”

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The group said the strategy of cutting back the distribution of third-party brands had let it concentrate on its own “core premium brands”, which had prompted a 9 per cent jump in their turnover.

The latest performance for William Grant & Sons came in a difficult year for the industry, when the value of Scotch whisky exports fell 7 per cent.

Standout performers in the year for the company, it added, were the Glenfiddich and Balvenie whiskies and Hendrick’s super-premium gin.

Hendrick’s marketing last year included the launch of a 130 foot long, 44 foot tall dirigible, allowing guests to enjoy a “romantic” gin cocktail 1,000 feet above the ground.

William Grant & Sons said its “record” capital spending in the year included €35m (£25.7m) on a new Irish malt distillery at Tullamore in Ireland.

The investment marked a return of distilling to the town after a gap of 60 years. The company also bought the famous Drambuie Scotch whisky liqueur brand last year.