South African wine and spirits group Distell has posted a rise in half-year sales and volumes.

Distell said yesterday (21 February) that sales for the last six months of 2005 rose by 11.2% to ZAR3.7bn (US$607m) with volumes up by 5.9%.

Domestically, sales volumes increased by 4.8%, with ready-to-drink (RTD) volumes growing by 11.7%, spirits by 2.8%, while unfortified wine volumes remained stagnant. This was attributed to the continued strength of the Rand leading to an influx of wines onto the local market, characterised by heavy discounting in pursuit of market share.

International revenues rose 16.3% with export volumes, excluding Africa, up 22%, with wines up by 23.2% and Amarula cream 15%.

MD Jan Scannel said these figures were achieved despite tough trading conditions at home and abroad, where the global wine glut is further squeezing producer margins.

Headline earnings per share rose 20.7%, but because of a one-off black economic empowerment expense of ZAR67.3m due through Distell's operating subsidiary South African Distillers and Wines, the company showed a drop of 4.2%. This empowerment deal is in line with the ANC government's aim of broader black representation in business.

An interim dividend of 68c a share was declared.