Diageo has been boosted by a strong performance in the US to deliver upbeat first half results, with operating profits at the company up 6%.

The company said that first half operating profit before exceptional items reached GPB1,261m (US$2,185m). Net sales after excise duties reached GPB3,960m, up 8%, leading to basic earnings per share before exceptional items of 31.1 pence, a rise of 24%.

Paul Walsh, chief executive of Diageo, said: "This is a strong first half performance. We have invested in our brands and built our market positions. We have again achieved our financial objectives delivering top and bottom line organic growth, organic operating margin improvement and an increase in return on invested capital.

"We continue to capitalise on our opportunities in the US where our market leadership and superior route to market have led to further volume share gains of 0.4 percentage points in spirits. In Europe, where we face a more challenging trading environment, we have created a more efficient organisation and this has enabled us to deliver 7% organic operating profit growth in the period.  Sustained investment behind our brands in International markets has led to strong top line growth, up 12%.  Throughout the business, mix improvement through stronger growth of brands such as Johnnie Walker together with the creation of a lower cost base have led to overall organic margin expansion of 0.2 percentage points."

In North America, volume grew 4%, net sales after deducting excise duties increased 7%, marketing spend increased 5% and operating profit improved 5%.

In Europe volume was flat, net sales after deducting excise duties were down 1%, marketing spend was down 7%, but operating profit increased 7%.

In Diageo's international business, volume was up 11%, net sales after deducting excise duties grew 12%, marketing spend increased 24% and operating profit was up 12%.

On a reported basis, volume increased by 4% for the company's global priority brands, 2% for local priority brands, 12% for category brands and 5% in total. 

Looking forward, Walsh said: "Material changes to these first half trends are unlikely in the balance of the year and we are therefore comfortable in reiterating our full year guidance of 7% organic operating profit growth."