Pernod Ricard has reported a 12% drop in like-for-like sales for its third quarter and launched a EUR1bn rights issue in order to help reduce debt.

Pernod said today (15 April) that like-for-like sales for the three months to the end of March fell by 12% to EUR1.345bn (US$1.8bn). Net sales, including the acquisition of Vin & Sprit, the owner of Absolut vodka, fell by 2% for the quarter.

The third quarter slip means that like-for-like sales for the first nine months of Pernod's fiscal year rose by just 0.3%. Reported net sales for the period rose by 9% to EUR5.56bn.

The French wine and spirits giant, owner of brands such as Jameson whiskey and Martell Cognac, said that it has been affected in the third quarter by "significant de-stocking from wholesalers and distributors", as well as a slowdown in Eastern Europe and falling sales in the on-trade in mature markets.

Last week, Pernod lowered its full-year guidance for organic operating profits growth, to a target of between 3% and 5%, down from the previous forecast of between 5% and 8%.

Separately, Pernod also announced the launch of a EUR1bn rights issue, intended to raise capital in order for the company to pay down debt, largely accrued as a result of its EUR5.3bn purchase of Sweden's Vin & Sprit last year.

Pernod said it would launch the issue tomorrow (16 April). The rights issue is set to create 38.8m new shares, representing three new shares for 17 existing shares, at a price of EUR26.70 each. The new shares will be included in the 2008/09 dividend payout and will be listed as of 14 May.