Fortune Brands has hailed its Beam Global Spirits & Wine unit for delivering record operating income for the third quarter.

The US company said today that operating profit from Beam Global in the three months to the end of September rose by 5.1% year-on-year to US$179.3m. Sales inched up in the period at the unit, by 1.5% to $664.9m.

For the nine months of the year so far, operating income from spirits and wine increased by 9.7% on the corresponding period in 2006, to $500.5, despite flat sales of $1.9bn.

Group operating income for Fortune as a whole in the third quarter slipped, however, by 0.9% to $375.9m, with net sales falling by the same percentage to $2.20bn. Net income for the quarter climbed by 38.1% to $208.9m.

For the nine-month period, operating income slid by 5% to $1.06bn with sales remaining flat at $6.50bn. Net income was down by 2% to $561.1m.

The group credited profit growth from Beam Global for "tempering the impact of the downturn in the US housing market" on its home products brands.

Moving forward, Fortune said it expects to continue "benefiting from global growth of our premium and super-premium spirits brands".

The group said that it expects diluted EPS before charges/gains to be down in the range of low-to-mid-single digits for the full-year.