• Sobieski vodka gains in US, Poland
  • Shares jump on Q3 sales
  • Group meets first debt payment
Belvedere shares up on Q3 sales gains, debt payment

Belvedere shares up on Q3 sales gains, debt payment

Strong demand for Sobieski vodka in the US has brought a little cheer to stricken French drinks group Belvedere, as it commences a ten-year debt repayment plan.

A 41% rise in Sobieski sales by volume for the three months to the end of September drove Belvedere to report net sales in the US up by 45.6% for the quarter. Including exchange rate gains, sales in the US rose by almost 58% on the same period of 2009.

Sales to the US reached EUR6.4m (US$8.7m) for the quarter and, even though the US only constitutes around 7% of Belvedere's annual sales, Sobieski's performance has brought the group some brightness in a difficult period in its history. So, too, has its performance in Poland, which accounts for around 42% of group sales and returned to growth in the third quarter.  
 
Sales to Poland rose by 7%, excluding a 20% exchange rate gain, for the three-month period. Belvedere said that Sobieski vodka's volume market share in Poland reached 18.7% at the end of the quarter, up from 16.6% in December 2009.

Belvdere's share price has more than doubled in the last month and was up by 7% in morning trading today (16 November), reflecting increased confidence among investors that the drinks group can pull itself out of bankruptcy protection in France. Last week, Belvedere paid its first instalment of a ten-year debt repayment plan, which is set to cost the group EUR747.8m, including interest, by 10 November 2019.
 
The group, in which Hollywood actor Bruce Willis has a 3% stake, reported net sales for the first nine months of 2010 up by 2.5% to EUR426.1m. A 15.5% sales increase in the third quarter led the performance.

Profits for the third quarter have yet to be released, but half-year figures suggest that the firm remains under significant pressure. Net losses for the six months to the end of June sank to EUR49.1m from EUR21.9m in the same period of 2009. 

The group is committed to selling assets, such as Marie Brizard, in order to pay down debt.