Pernod Ricard has reported a 20% leap in underlying first-half profits thanks to a strong performance from its spirits brands.

The French drinks giant said today (8 March) that operating profit reached EUR886m (US$1.2bn) for the six months to 31 December.

As a publicly listed French company, Pernod publishes its sales figures separately from its earnings. On 25 January, Pernod reported a 9.7% rise in first-half sales to EUR3.5bn thanks to growth from its spirits brands, particularly in Asia and the Americas.

Chairman and CEO Patrick Ricard said today that Pernod's first-half figures reflected the "complete success" of a strategy drawn up after the 2005 acquisition of Allied Domecq.

Revenue from the company's 15 "strategic"  brands, which also include Ballantine's Scotch and Martell Cognac, rose 14% during the period. Stolichnaya vodka saw sales jump 32%, while sales of Perrier-Jouet Champagne leapt 43%.

Champagne failed to boost Pernod's overall wine business, however, which saw sales fall 1.1%. Jacob's Creek sales slid by 3% due to challenging conditions in the UK wine market.

On a more positive note, Pernod said revenue from Asia and the rest of the world rose 12.1%, boosted by sales of Ballantine's and Martell.

In the Americas, revenue increased by 14% thanks to growing demand in the US, Mexico and Canada. Pernod pointed to growing sales of Stolichnaya, Jameson Irish whiskey and The Glenlivet single malt Scotch for its rising US sales. Over half of Pernod's profit now comes from Asia and the Americas, the company said.

Pernod also saw sales rise in Europe, by 6.6% thanks to growing demand for Ballantine's in Spain, Germany and Greece. The company, however, said the UK and Italian markets "remained difficult".