The sixth largest Champagne maker Laurent-Perrier has given further evidence that the market for sparkling wine has bounced back from its post-millennium slump by reporting a 67.2% leap in first-half net profits.

However extra hiring costs will mean that full-year operating profits will fall slightly below its 2001/02 result. The group has increased its commercial staff by a quarter since January.
According to the company's chairman Yves Dumont the recovery is likely to continue into 2003 as well, although growth in turnover is likely to be more modest.

For the six months to September 30, 2002 net attributable profit rose to €4.13m from €2.47m from a year before, helped by higher sales, a lower tax rate and non-recurring gains.

Operating profit came in at 11.6 million euros, up from 9.29 million in the first half of the group's 2001/02 fiscal year.

"We expect our operating result to retreat a little from last year's due to our decision to revitalise our commercial services, and because hiring and training charges will come into full effect in the second half of our fiscal year," Dumont said.

Looking forward Dumont continued: "Our sales should continue to rise, but we are always at the mercy of external factors like a war or economic recession that could affect our sales and thus our results."

Laurent-Perrier also said it planned to increase its prices by 4% on average in January 2003.