BOOMING sales of Scotch in fast-growing economies such as China and Brazil have put Pernod Ricard on course to grow profits 8% in the current financial year, despite the uncertain global economic outlook.
The French drinks giant, which owns Chivas Brothers, said it grew sales by 11%, to €4.6 billion (£3.8bn) in the first half. Strong growth in emerging markets compensated for falling sales in some mature markets, including the UK.
Describing growth in Asia, Africa and the Middle East as the driving force for the first-half success, Pernod Ricard highlighted the key role played by the four Scotch whiskies in the 14-strong portfolio of its leading brands.
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Sales of Royal Salute blended whisky increased 34% by value in the six months to December 31, compared with the same period in 2010. Sales of Glenlivet single malt increased by 19% annually. The value of sales of the Chivas Regal and Ballantines blended whiskies increased by 13% and 6% respectively.
Pernod Ricard joins a long list of Scotch producers that have posted strong growth in sales on the back of booming demand in areas such as Asia, helped by the emergence of a new class of affluent consumers.
The company said sales increased by 6% in mature markets. It said accelerated growth in eastern and central Europe (15%) had offset a "moderate decline" in western Europe, where sales in the UK had fallen by 6%, in Italy by 11% and in Spain by 5%.
Profit from recurring operations increased by 17%, to €1.4bn, in the first half, which included the key Christmas trading period.
Scotch whisky exports surged to record levels last year helped by the drink's popularity as a status symbol among members of the middle classes in emerging markets, including Brazil and China.
In December the Scotch Whisky Association said overseas sales of Scotch had increased 23% in the first nine months of 2011 to almost £3bn, contributing £125 per second to the UK's balance of payments.