Despite a strong rand, Distell has been able to grow full year international sales, outside of Africa, by 30.2% without cutting prices. The rand, however, did impact on international sales revenues, which only grew by 4.3%.

The Stellenbosch-based company boosted headline earnings by 41% to R358.6m the year ended on 30 June 2004.

A final dividend of 51c a share pushed the total dividend for the year to 97c, up from last year's 75c.

Financial director Merwe Botha said the company's bottom line was boosted by a lower interest bill as well as foreign currency adjustments to a loss of R24.9m compared with a loss of R66.7m the previous year.

Total revenue for the year under review grew by 10.7% to R5.7 billion on a total sales volume increase of 1.9%.

MD Jan Scannell said that the company's drive brands Two Oceans, Nederburg and Drsody Hof and Fleur du Cap had performed admirably in Europe, Scandinavia and Canada.

On the domestic market, the more profitable spirits category performed better than other categories such as wine. Even after losing the rights to Martell, local spirit volumes grew 2%. If Martell sales were excluded, spirit volumes grew by 7.6%, with brandy up 7.9%.