• Net profits hit GBP22.5m (US$34.9m), versus losses of GBP377,000 a year ago
  • Net sales drop by 36% to GBP215.7m
  • Operating profits fall by 23% to GBP4.9m 
  • Merchant says sales and profits "distorted" by disposals, underlying business performs well

A streamlined Berry Bros & Rudd has reported a drop in sales for its fiscal year, but the merchant praised improvement in its continuing operations thanks to continued demand for premium spirits and fine wine.

Berry Bros net sales dropped by 36% to GBP215.7m (US$334.5m) for the 12 months to the end of March, according to accounts published at UK Companies House last week. However, the wine and spirits merchant said that sales from continuing operations increased by 36%, largely thanks to the popularity of fine wine in Asia and better-than-expected demand for the firm's premium spirits.

Group chairman Simon Berry said that full-year figures were distorted by the firm's sale of its distributor arms in Greece and Spain during the 12-month period. Proceeds from the disposals helped Berry Bros to swing to net profits of GBP22.5m, versus losses of GBP377,000 in the previous year.

Operating profits fell by 23% to GBP4.9m. But, based on continuing operations, operating profits increased by 21.6%. 

Berry was keen to emphasise the strong performance of Berry Bros' core business. "A surge of interest in fine wine, especially at the top end of the market, is bucking the trend of the worldwide recession, and is especially evident in the Far East," he said.

In spirits, Berry Bros has focused on luxury brands. Berry said that the spirits unit exceeded the group's expectations for the year, although it remained in the red. He singled out Glenrothes Scotch whisky, King's Ginger and No.3 gin for special mention.