United Spirits has reported strong rises in sales and profits for its fiscal first quarter and has confirmed its plan to raise a further US$300m to pay down debts.

Net sales for the three months to the end of June rose by 22% to INR12.4bn (US$256m), while net profits rose by 52% to INR1.77bn, compared to the same period of last year, said United Spirits yesterday (29 July).

Volume sales grew by 17% for the quarter, broadly continuing the rate of growth seen in the group's 2008/09 financial year and again indicating that the firm has remained largely resilient to the global economic downturn.

The number of young consumers reaching legal drinking age in India has sustained growth, United Spirits said.

"These first time consumers are now entering at mid price points as against low price points, while continuing to exhibit a marked preference for whiskies, which is the heart of United Spirits' business," said the group, which is owned by billionaire Vijay Mallya and controls more than two thirds of India's spirits market.

Profits were boosted by lower raw materials costs, tighter cost management and higher prices compared with the first quarter of last year, it added. Operating profits for the quarter rose 13% to INR2.2bn.

Mallya confirmed in a television interview with CNBC yesterday that United Spirits aims to raise around US$300m within the next couple of months, as part of the firm's plan to pay down a US$625m loan used to acquire Whyte & Mackay for $1.18bn in 2007.

Last month, a source close to the company told just-drinks that at least two of the world's largest private equity groups have offered to invest in the firm. The source also said that talks with Diageo over a potential stake sale were ongoing. 

India's Economic Times newspaper named the interested private equity groups as Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Blackstone Group and Capital International.