Irish drinks company C&C Group has warned that sales for its current fiscal year are set to continue on their downward trend.

The company, which owns the Magners cider brand, said today (29 February) that total sales for the year to the end of February, are expected to come in 9% down on the same period a year earlier at around EUR738.5m (US$1.12bn). The expected performance, which is in line with a forecast issued last month, reflects "a decline in the cider division, primarily as a result of the loss of market share by Magners in Great Britain; the impact of poor summer weather; and an increase in operating and marketing costs", the company said.

The performance of Magners primarily reflects the impact in the UK of a loss of on-trade market share and the negative carry-over impact of poor summer weather last year.

In spite of this, the group expects shipment volumes from its spirits and liqueurs division to rise by 5% in the year, thanks in part to double-digit growth for its Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey.

Group operating profit for the fiscal year is expected to come in at around EUR199.6m.

The company said that it still intends to pay a full-year dividend in line with last year's, at EUR0.27 per share.

Looking forward, C&C said it plans to continue its market tests of Magners in barcelona and Munich in 2008-09. No details were given about plans to roll-out the brand more broadly across Europe.

"Our objective in 2008/09 is to stabilise our financial and market performance, and, through a combination of management reorganisation, cost reduction and marketing initiatives, to deliver growth," said company CEO, Maurice Pratt.