Pernod Ricard, the French drinks giant, reported a 20.8% rise in consolidated sales excluding duty and tax to €1,191m for the first quarter ending 31 March 2002.

In a statement, Pernod said the increase was attributable to two contrasting changes, the acquisition of Seagram and the sale of Orangina and San Giorgio Flavors. Excluding currencies (a positive impact of 1.4%) and consolidation changes, organic growth was 4.2%.

The Spirits and Wine division saw a steep 75% rise in first-quarter sales (ex duty and tax) to €644 million. Sales generated by Seagram brands amounted to €250million.

"This figure must be seen in the light of two factors specific to the first quarter, firstly the gradual integration of these brands in certain countries, and secondly the impact of overstocking by Seagram in first-half 2001. Stripping out these non-recurring items, sales amount to some €300m, in line with the year's target of €1.5 billion," Pernod said in the statement.

The non-Seagram brands generated sales of €394m, up 3.1% in organic terms. This follows a hefty 14.5% increase in first-quarter 2001.

"Most of that difference can be explained by the fact that, with the introduction of the euro, price rises in France were deferred to second-quarter 2002. This impact was no longer visible at end April," Pernod said.

In the non-core businesses, sales of the Fruit Preparations division were €205m, down 32% as a result of asset disposals in 2001. Excluding currencies and consolidation impacts, organic growth was 3.4%. The Distribution division reported sales of €341 million, up 8.1% (6.2% like-for-like).

The inclusion of Seagram in Pernod Ricard's brand portfolio has resulted in a marked geographical shift in business operations, leading to a three-fold increase in sales outside Europe. Accordingly, Europe now accounts for 53% of total spirits and wine sales (France 18%, other Europe 35%) and the rest of the world accounts for 47% (Americas 28%, Africa-Pacific Rim 19%).

Chairman and CEO Patrick Ricard said: "Our first-quarter sales figures are highly satisfactory, and I am confident that we will achieve our targets for 2002".