Fortune Brands saw its recently-acquired stable of wine and spirits brands help drive rising sales and earnings during 2005.

The US consumer group, whose drinks arm operates under the Beam Global Wine & Spirits name, today (8 February) posted a 14% rise in operating income to US$1.2bn. Net sales were up 15% to US$7.1bn.

Fortune finished 2005 with "another strong quarter" chairman and CEO Norm Wesley said. Excluding one-off charges, operating income was up 16% to US$305m, on the back of a 24% leap in net sales to US$1.96bn.

"Our newly-acquired spirits and wine brands, including Sauza, Canadian Club, Maker's Mark and Clos du Bois, benefited EPS before charges in the quarter, adding approximately US$0.08 per share," Wesley added.

Wesley said he believed Fortune was "a stronger company" than a year ago.

"The integration of the spirits and wine acquisition is on track, and we continue to expect that these new brands will benefit EPS by US$0.35 or more in 2006," he said.

"While our first quarter expectations reflect costs associated with finalising the transition of our spirits and wine assets, we see accretion from the spirits and wine acquisition getting progressively stronger as the year unfolds."

Wesley added: "Our new product pipeline is fully loaded, we'll continue investing behind our brands, and we'll continue seizing growth opportunities in new markets."