Pernod Ricard, the world's third biggest spirit group, was the latest company yesterday to report that it had been hit by negative currency effects, when it revealed its nine-month sales.

Wine and spirits sales (excluding duties and taxes) for the nine-month period ending 30 September 2003 amounted to €2,314m, representing an increase in the organic sales growth rate to 8.5%, up from 8% for the 6-month period ending 30 June 2003.

However, the company said forex movements adversely affected 2003 nine-month wine and spirits sales by €207m (9%), though this was partially offset by an increase of €29m (1.3%) due to group structure changes.

Total sales, including those of the last non-core assets the group has yet to divest, were €2.409 billion.

Among the group's 12 key brands there were signs of an improving economic environment as sales increased by 2% for the first 9 months of 2003, after almost flat sales growth of 0.2% for the first half of 2003.

Chivas Regal (up 5%) confirmed the good growth of the first six months of 2003 and benefited from the recovery in the US during the last quarter, as well as from the continued brand development efforts in Chinese Asia.

Martell (up 7%) posted improved 3rd quarter results in all of its markets, notably including significant sales growth in the US, the company.

Havana Club posted 9% sales growth for the nine-month period.

Jameson and Jacob's Creek both enjoyed positive developments in line with the group's expectations, Pernod said, by posting sales increases of 7% and 12% respectively for the nine-month period.

In France wine and spirits sales enjoyed an improvement during the 3rd quarter, with an increase in sales value. However, Pernod said this reflects contrasting developments by product segments, with consumption of anise drinks stabilising, while whisky consumption was adversely affected by the heatwave.

In the rest of Europe, wine and spirits sales maintained strong organic growth during the 3rd quarter, with most European countries, and in particular Italy, the UK and Germany, continuing to operate well in a difficult environment.

Perhaps most encouraging though was the performance in the Americas, where wine and spirits sales enjoyed accelerated organic growth during the 3rd quarter driven by the economic recovery in the US, achieving a nine-month cumulative growth rate of 10.8%.

The US in particular posted dynamic results during the 3rd quarter, due in part to the launch of year-end promotions.

The group is hoping for full-year growth in net profit, before exceptional items and currency effects, of around 15%.

However, the company remained cautious for the full year saying that the achievement of the full year target will significantly depend on 4th quarter sales, which historically account for nearly one-third of annual sales.