Latest industry figures reveal the tough business environment the distilling industry has experienced in the last three years. In a report released today, the UK's leading companies in the sector are shown to have experienced declining growth since 1998.

In an analysis of 32 leading distilling companies in the UK, the business ratio report, entitled Distillers, says that the average company has seen a compound sales growth figure of minus 7% over the last three years.

"This is as a result of a minus 3% contraction in sales growth in the first half of the period under review being followed by an even greater contraction in growth of minus 11% in the second half," a statement by the report's publisher The Prospect Shop said.

A similar trend is seen in pre-tax profit growth, where a compound profit growth of just 1% is a result of positive 11% growth in the first half of the period followed by a minus 9% contradiction in the second half. For both sales and profit growth, a greater deterioration can be seen in the second half of the period under review.

The average pre-tax profit margin for the industry is the only profitability ratio to have seen a steady increase during the three-year period. Starting at 10.7% in 1998/99, it rose to 12.2% in 1999/2000 and ended the period at 12.5%.

However even here, the report revealed that some companies performed better than others. Topping the list was The Glenlivet Distillers with pre-tax profit margins of 45.2%. The larger concerns of Diageo and Allied Domecq, by comparison, faired less well with margins of 12.3% and 4.8% respectively.

Average sales per employee for the industry as a whole rose slightly from £220,000 in 1998/99 to £223,000 in the middle year only to fall to a three-year low of just £198,000 in 2001.

The Business Ratio Report - Distillers is available from The Prospect Shop on Tel: + 44 20 8481 8720