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FRANCE: Belvedere reports H1 sales growth

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Troubled French wine and spirits group Belvedere has reported a marked lift in sales for the first six months of this year.

The company, which has suspended stock market trading and narrowly avoided bankruptcy last month by gaining special legal protection, said sales in the first six months of 2008 leapt by 24.5%, reaching EUR577.5m (US$848m).

The group, which owns Sobieski vodka, used the increase to show that it was on-track to reach its full-year sales target of EUR1.2bn.

Sales in Poland rose 55.7%, accounting for nearly two thirds of total group sales, although Belvedere said that its focus on higher end spirits saw its vodka market share fall from nearly 28% to just under 26%.

Both France and the US markets reported 5% sales rises. The firm's wine division reported sales down by a quarter, but added this had now stabilised, while the launch of Sobieski vodka in the US reached an "exceptional" 100,000 cases during the half, the company said.

Speculation grew last week that Belvedere may sell Bordeaux spirits subsidiary Marie Brizard in order to reduce debts, thought to total around EUR425m.


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