DRINKS giant Pernod Ricard revealed that soaring sales of whiskies, including Chivas Regal and Glenlivet, helped it to its strongest growth since the 2008 financial crisis, as it lined up another member of its founding family to take leadership of the business.
Rising demand in Asia helped to lift operating profit by a better-than-expected 9% to €2.1 billion (£1.7bn) for the year to June 30.
Sales at the world's second biggest spirits company were up 8% to €8.2bn.
As at arch-rival Diageo, owner of Johnnie Walker, which published its financial results a week ago, whisky led the way in sales growth. Pernod's top-end whisky Royal Salute, which retails for between £100 and £1600 a bottle, saw sales expand 20% as it sold more than 200,000 nine-litre cases for the first time.
Meanwhile, Glenlivet's sales grew 15% to surpass the 800,000 case mark. Its core whisky brand Chivas Regal saw sales rise 7% to 4.9 million cases.
On top of that, Pernod succeeded in increasing prices for its top brands, with Royal Salute growing 23% in value terms; Glenlivet, the world's second largest single malt whisky brand, 19%; and Chivas 11%.
The only other Pernod brand to match this performance was its brandy Martell, which grew 25% in value terms and 10% by volume. The one leading whisky brand to falter was Ballantine's, which saw sales stagnate in value terms as volumes fell. It was hit by the economic downturn in Spain and duty increases in France. These are its two biggest markets.
Christian Porta, chairman and chief executive of Pernod's whisky business Chivas Brothers, said: "Over the past 10 years, backed by the strong Pernod Ricard distribution network and a strategy of innovation, Chivas Regal has reaffirmed its iconic status and continues to grow in many emerging Scotch whisky markets."
The company said Chivas Regal did well in emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia, India and China, and saw sales in travel retail exceed one million cases for the first time. Royal Salute benefited from marketing activity around the Diamond Jubilee. Meanwhile, Glenlivet saw strong growth in Asia, helped by a marketing push.
Pernod, whose other brands include Jameson Irish whiskey and Absolut Vodka, saw double-digit growth in Asia. But sales in Europe were hindered by poor performance in Spain, Italy and Greece, as well as the UK, where sales fell 4%.
Alexandre Ricard, managing director of the group's distribution network, has been named deputy chief executive and chief operating officer. It is intended that in January 2015 he will replace chief executive Pierre Pringuet, who is due to retire, and his aunt Daniele Ricard, who became chairman on the sudden death of her brother Patrick Ricard, son of the founder.
Mr Pinguet said: "Throughout the 2011/12 financial year, the group recognised its best growth rates since the 2008 crisis, be it for the top or bottom line."