Price increases boost United Spirits sales

Price increases boost United Spirits sales

United Spirits, India's leading spirits group and owned by billionaire Vijay Mallya, has more than tripled net profits in its fiscal third quarter and reported sales up by nearly a third.

Net profits after tax reached INR9.68bn (US$209m) for the three months to the end of December, compared to INR30.6bn in the same period of 2008, United Spirits said late yesterday (21 January).

Net sales rose by 31% to INR13.58bn, boosted by price increases and an end to a regulatory dispute with authorities in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Volume sales rose by 12% to 26.5m cases, representing a slower rate of growth from fiscal 2008, when case sales were rising closer to 20%. Volumes rose by 13% for the nine months to the end of December.

The group said it has used long-term supply contracts to insulate itself from a "quantum step-up" in spirit costs in its current fiscal year. However, it added that spirit costs in the third quarter were lower than a spike in the same period of 2008.

Among its brands, United Spirits singled out newly launched Whyte & Mackay Special, a mid-market Scotch whisky, as a strong performer. The whisky is being bottled in India.

Subsidiary Whyte & Mackay has reported a "stable performance" for the fiscal year so far, the firm added.

United Spirits has spend recent months seeking finance to help it pay down a US$625m loan taken out to fund its acquisition of Whyte & Mackay for $1.1bn in 2007.

Earlier this week, Whyte & Mackay reported a strong rise in profits for the year to the end of March 2008.

To read the just-drinks interview with the Scotch whisky group's CEO, John Beard, click here.