The French drinks group Pernod Ricard has seen a 6% organic leap in wine and spirits sales in its first half, benefiting from good conditions in Asia and the Americas.

Wine & Spirits sales (excluding duties and taxes) at 30 June 2004 amounted to €1,528 m compared to € 1,496m for the first half of last year, rising 6% on an organic growth basis, which takes into account the impact of foreign exchange (- 3.2%) and changes in group structure (- 0.7%) arising from the disposal of Busnel and Crus et Domaines in France.

Second quarter alone sales increased to €824m from €783m over the same period last year, accelerating organic growth to 6.5%, following a 5.4% for the 1st quarter of

The Group's 12 key brands posted a 4% increase in sales volume during the 1st half of 2004, due mainly to the growth of premium brands: Jameson, Chivas Regal, Wild Turkey, The Glenlivet, Martell, and Havana Club.

The company said that operations in Asia and "Rest of World" posted excellent sales results with value rising by 13.1%, driven by Chivas Regal, Royal Salute, Martell Cordon Bleu and Martell XO in Chinese Asia, Royal Stag a local whisky brand in India and Chivas Regal, Jacob's Creek and Wild Turkey Cola in Australia.

In the Americas organic sales growth of 7.8% reflected both the good performance achieved in North America and some recovery in Central and South America, Pernod said.

In North America, the whole portfolio of spirits brands reported growth however this was off set by a sharp decline in "Ready to Drink" products.

In South and Central America, sales increased in the 2nd quarter, compared to a 1st quarter that was stable, due to growth in Brazil, Argentina and Central America.

Europe, the company said, (excluding France) returned to growth. After a stable 1st quarter in 2004 (0.1% organic sales decrease), the 2nd quarter of 2004 grew by 5.7%, resulting in a 3% growth for the full half-year. Sales grew particularly in Germany, Greece, the UK and Ireland, with market conditions being tighter in Spain and Poland remaining difficult.

However, in France sales for the 2nd quarter fell slightly by 0.5%, resulting in 2004 1st half-year organic sales growth of only 1.6%.

Ricard fell by 4% and Pastis 51 by 5%, in line with the anis market. On the other hand, there were good performances by Havana Club (+15%), Wyborowa (+14%), as well as Chivas Regal (+15%), Jameson (+6%) and Clan Campbell (+2%) in a stable market for whisky.

Overall, consolidated sales for the 1st half of 2004 increased to € 1,573m from €1,557m for the same period last year. Non-Wine & Spirits business sales now represent only 2.8% of group sales.

Looking forward, the company said: "The good level of business and the success of premium brands is in line with our expectations. They confirm our guidance for organic growth, which excludes currency and structure effects, in wine and spirits operating profit of at least 7% for 2004."