French wine and spirits group Rémy Cointreau recorded an 11.2% fall in full-year turnover today, as it was hit by currency rates. However, the company said that a stronger fourth quarter was evidence of an improvement.

The company said that on a like-for-like basis it recorded growth of 1.5% on turnover of €888m. The fourth quarter saw an acceleration in organic growth to 4.8%, which the company said: "Confirmed the progressive improvement in sales evidenced throughout the year."

But Remy said that the second six months of the year could not compensate for the weakness that occurred in Spring 2003. "The ongoing efforts on the organisation and on supporting its brands should guarantee continuing organic growth for Rémy Cointreau in the medium term," it said.

In Cognac certain European markets remained difficult, but the company said it continued to achieve a good sales performance in the US and China for its premium cognacs. The 5.7% growth achieved in the first six months to 31 March was within the group's strategy for sustained growth in the medium term.

In liqueurs, a strong recovery in the third quarter was followed by record growth in the fourth quarter, increasing by 7.3%. Cointreau increased by 6% with good growth in the US and Japan. Passoa achieved a 20% increase in sales, doing particularly well in France.

In spirits there was strong growth in vodkas, up 12.4% for Bols vodka, and a good performance by Mount Gay rum and Metaxa, which, together with the beginning of a recovery in the Dutch market, led to growth of 13% in the fourth quarter.

In Champagne, international sales of Piper-Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck remained strong, with a favourable product/market mix., leading to underlying champagnes sales, rising 1.4% in 2003/04.