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Rebounding Champagne and Cognac sales for Moet Hennessy in the first quarter of 2010 have shot some fizz into the shares of Diageo, Pernod Ricard and Remy Cointreau.

Drinks stocks were given a boost today (13 April) after Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) reported wine and spirits sales up 20% in the first three months of the year, to EUR635m (US$862.7m).

LVMH saw its share price increase by 3% to around EUR91.5 following the announcement.

The confidence spilled over to Diageo, which controls 34% of Moet Hennessy and saw its own share price rise by 2% on the London Stock Exchange. Standard & Poors set a 'buy' rating on Diageo shares this morning.

Pernod Ricard's share price grew by 3%, with investors likely to have been buoyed by Moet Hennessy's reports of ongoing strong demand for Cognac in Asia. Remy Cointreau also registered a near-3% rise today.

Moet Hennessy's report of rebounding Champagne sales, thanks to fresh orders from distributors, will be heartening to a sector hit particularly hard by the global econmoic malaise.

Moet Hennessy recovered to the level of first quarter sales in 2008 (EUR640m). The division peaked at EUR689m in the 2007 first quarter, following sales of EUR632m in 2006.

The group did not, however, give specific Champagne, Cognac and Scotch whisky figures, making it difficult to know how far China's thirst for Hennessy Cognac led the sales resurgence.

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There was a muted reaction to LVMH results among other top Champagne houses, perhaps reflecting the caution with which Champagne is eyeing 2010. Laurent-Perrier saw shares up 1%, but Lanson producer Boizel Chanoine Champagne was down 0.3% - albeit following strong gains at the end of March.

Still, If Moet Hennessy continues to progress in 2010, what price more speculation on a Diageo bid for the business?


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