Fortune Brands has posted a slide in full-year net income despite static sales.

The company, which owns Beam Global, said today (25 January) that group net income for 2007 fell by 8.1% on 2006, to US$762.6m, with operating income down 4.9% to $1.37bn. Group sales, meanwhile, inched up by 0.5% to $8.56bn.

Group performance was impacted by the downturn in the US housing market, charges for supply-chain initiatives and the absence of one-time gains recorded in 2006, the company said.

On the spirits side, however, full-year operating income was up markedly, by 16.1% on the year before to $766.7m. Sales for the unit rose by 3.7% to $2.61bn.

Income from discontinued operations, which includes the group's former wine business, fell by 27.2% to $13.1m. Fortune sold its wine operations to Constellation in November for $885m.

For the final quarter of 2007, the spirits unit saw operating income leap by 22.6% to $290.1m, with sales increasing by 10.2% to $858.8m. The company recorded a $45.6m gain from the sale of the distribution rights in the US for The Dalmore Scotch whisky brand to India's UB Group late last year. Stripping out this gain, however, operating profit for the quarter was up a more conservative 1.3% at $245.9m.

"In spirits, we're driving strong profit growth that reflects our focus on premium brands and building brand equity, which supports higher pricing in a growing market," said Fortune's CEO, Bruce Carbonari. "Net of excise taxes, Jim Beam, Sauza and Maker's Mark all drove double-digit revenue increases for 2007 in constant currency, and worldwide sales of Jim Beam surpassed 6m cases.

"Our spirits brands now generate about half of Fortune Brands' total annual operating income," Carbonari noted.

Looking forward, the company said it was targeting operating profit growth from spirits of mid- to high-single digit in 2008.