Champagne house Laurent-Perrier saw sales fall by more than a quarter in its fiscal 2008, with net profits down by 45%, highlighting the effects of the economic downturn on the iconic French fizz.

Sales for the 12 months to the end of March 2009 fell by 27% to EUR181m (US$257m), down from EUR249m a year earlier, Laurent-Perrier said today (3 June). Net profits tumbled by 45% to EUR18.9m.

Most of the fall came in the second half of the year, said the group, highlighting the pressure that the global economic downturn has placed on Champagne houses at the end of 2008 and early in 2009.

Laurent-Perrier president Stéphane Tsassis said: "In a difficult economic climate over recent months, our operating margin has held up well due to the strong positioning of our brands and the rapid changes to our cost structure." Operating margin for the period fell by 2.6%.

Tsassis added that the firm's finances remain "solid", despite the group's net cash flow slipping to -EUR62m for the 12 months, down from -EUR4.4m a year earlier.

The firm said that it was confident of a sales recovery in the Champagne category: "In the medium-term, the Champagne market will recover its historical growth rate, higher than an average 2% per year."

Cash flow in the new fiscal year, the group said, will benefit from the sale of Chateau Malakoff.