The French drinks group Remy Cointreau was hit by the impact of SARS and the Iraq war as well as currency weakness in the first half, when sales fell 13%. Turnover reached €414.7m in the April to September period, down from €477.5m a year earlier.

However, the company was confident of a recovery as although sales on an underlying basis declined 0.2% in the first-half, they rebounded with a rise of 5.0% in the second quarter.

And on a like for like basis Rémy Cointreau's consolidated turnover for the first six months was stable.

Cognac sales in the second quarter increased by 9.4% at constant exchange rates, which was based on sustained activity in the US, following successful price increases, and on the growth of Rémy Martin in China.

Spirits had 18.2% growth in sales on a like-for-like, mainly due to vodka in Poland where, through the Bols brand.

Champagne saw organic growth of 6.1%.

"In the first six months the weak value of the dollar, exceptional events (SARS and Iraq war), and the economic conditions adversely affected trading, particularly the contribution from Cognac and Liqueurs. However, during the period under review, Rémy Cointreau continued to restructure, reduce its debt and increase its targeted marketing expenditure - all of which should strengthen its base for sound organic growth in the future," the company said.