Pernod Ricard has posted healthy rise in net profit for the first half of its current financial year.

The France-based wine and spirits company said today (28 February) that net profit over the six months to the end of December rose by 17.7% on the corresponding period a year earlier, coming in at EUR588m (US$887.7m).

The rise came on the back of a 5.9% lift in sales in the period, which hit EUR3.71bn. All Pernod's geographic regions were credited with contributing to sales growth, with an accelerated contribution from emerging countries. China, India and Russia were, in that order, the leading three contributors to sales growth.

Operating profit from ordinary activities were up by 15.3% in the six-month period, hitting EUR966m. Asia/Rest of the World and Europe delivered "particularly dynamic growth", the company said, thanks to the growth of premium brands in emerging markets. Profit from the Americas, however, slipped by 5% to EUR265m, as negative currency fluctuations made their presence felt.

"The first half of our 2007/2008 year was exceptional both in terms of the strength of sales and the growth in margins," said company chairman and CEO, Patrick Ricard. "The increase in profit was such that we decided to accelerate the growth in advertising and marketing
expenditure, thus strengthening our growth prospects."

Pernod has subsequently upped its full-year guidance for 2007/2008. The group is now targeting operating profit growth of at least 12% for the fiscal year.