The French drinks producer Pernod Ricard saw its net profits jump 4.7%, despite the tough economic conditions, to reach €161m from €154m a year earlier. The company cited cost cutting and strong sales growth for the success.

Reporting figures broadly in line with analysts expectations, the company said its core wine and spirits division saw operating profit of €279m (up 5.2%), which represents growth of 25%, at constant exchange rates. The operating margin rose by 1%, from 17.6% to 18.6%.

The performance was attributed to volume improvements of Chivas Regal (+4%) and Martell (+9%), as well as to the good performance of growth driver brands (Ramazzotti, Jameson, Jacob's Creek, Havana Club, The Glenlivet).

Wine and spirits generated sales (excluding duties and tax) of €1.5 billion in the first half of 2003, down 0.5%. This represents an organic growth rate of 8%. The French drinks producer Pernod Ricard saw its net profits jump 4.7%, despite the tough economic conditions, to reach €161m from €154m a year earlier. The company cited cost cutting and strong sales growth for the success.

Reporting figures broadly in line with analysts expectations, the company said its core wine and spirits division saw operating profit of €279m (up 5.2%), which represents growth of 25%, at constant exchange rates. The operating margin rose by 1%, from 17.6% to 18.6%.

The performance was attributed to volume improvements of Chivas Regal (+4%) and Martell (+9%), as well as to the good performance of growth driver brands (Ramazzotti, Jameson, Jacob's Creek, Havana Club, The Glenlivet).

Wine and spirits generated sales (excluding duties and tax) of €1.5 billion in the first half of 2003, down 0.5%. This represents an organic growth rate of 8%.

Patrick Ricard, chairman and chief executive officer, said: "The group has demonstrated its remarkable ability to increase the profitability of its core activities and to pursue fast debt paydown."

He added: "The achievements of the first half of 2003 lead us to expect organic growth in net profit excluding exceptional items of around 15% for the entire year."

However, there were a couple of dark spots as SARS hit Asian duty free sales. The French market to was difficult with a 7.2% slide in operating profit to €51.4m. This was in part attributable to a French government crackdown on drink-driving, Ricard said.