Fortune Brands, the US consumer goods group which owns spirits brands such as Jim Beam and Maker's Mark, has reported a 21% rise in earnings per share from continuing operations from US$0.95 to US$1.15 for the first quarter.
 
Net income reached US$173m on the back of strong organic sales growth, the addition and growth of newly acquired spirits and wine brands, and a net gain from one-time items, the company said.
 
Maker's Mark and Jim Beam were among the brands recording double-digit sales growth, Fortune Brands reported, with net sales as a whole rising by 33% to US$2bn. However, on an adjusted basis - assuming the company had owned the acquired spirits and wine brands in the first quarter of 2005 - and excluding excise taxes and foreign exchange - Fortune Brands estimated that sales would have risen at a low double-digit rate.
 
The first-quarter results also reflected a net gain of 9 cents per share from one-time items, resulting from a positive resolution of the routine IRS review of the company's 2002-2003 tax returns, but this was partly offset by restructuring and restructuring-related items and forex effects.
 
Excluding the net gain, diluted earnings per share before charges and gains were up 12% at US$1.06, the company said.
 
"Fortune Brands fired on all cylinders in the first quarter with excellent momentum across our consumer categories," said chairman and chief executive officer Norm Wesley. "Our strong start to 2006 exceeded our first-quarter earnings targets as each of our businesses performed at or above our expectations. Our first-quarter results reflect a determination to grow faster than our consumer categories."