United Spirits owner Vijay Mallya

United Spirits owner Vijay Mallya

India's United Spirits has reported a strong rise in first quarter sales with operating profits boosted by lower costs for raw materials.

Net sales for the three months to the end of June rose by 18% on the same period of last year, to INR14.6bn (US$313m), United Spirits said today (20 July).

Volume sales rose at a slower rate - by 6% to 26.7m cases - partially reflecting consumers trading up to more expensive spirits but also due to destocking in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

The Vijay Mallya-owned spirits group, which accounts for around two thirds of India's spirits market by volume, said it was pleased with a good start to the year.

Lower raw materials costs boosted operating profits, it said. "Spirit costs during the quarter have come off the high of the previous fiscal as a consequence of better availability in the market place.

"The prices are expected to remain at or around this level during the ensuing quarter and trend downwards once the produce from the new crushing comes into the market."

Operating profits (EBITDA) rose by 25% for the quarter, to INR2.9bn.

However, net profits fell to INR1.2bn compared to INR1.77bn in the first quarter of last year, which was boosted by a one-off gain from the sale of shares.

Operating profits at Whyte & Mackay, United Spirits' Scotch whisky subsidiary, rose to GBP5.9m (US$9m) for the quarter, from GBP5.44m a year earlier.