Champagne house Vranken-Pommery Monopole has reported a 7% drop in net profit for 2008, but remains confident that its Champagne sales could weather the economic downturn.

Vranken-Pommery said today (26 March) that net profit for the 12 months of 2008 fell to EUR16.9m (US$22.9m), down from EUR18.2m in 2007.

Shares in the group rose by more than 2% this morning, however, after it said that operating profit for the year rose by 3% year-on-year to EUR51.9m. Champagne sales by value for the firm rose by 1% last year to EUR268m, Vranken said, against a global Champagne market down 5% in volume during the same period.

Overall Vranken sales revenue dipped by 0.3% to EUR286m (US$371m) for the 12 months.

"Notwithstanding 2008's challenging business environment, our group increased Champagne revenue and widened its market share," said Paul-François Vranken, chairman and CEO.

"These gains helped to improve our operating profit. We're convinced that the solid positions established in 2008 with customers and partners will support Vranken-Pommery Monopole's business in 2009 and 2010."

In Europe, Vranken said Champagne sales growth in Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands "easily offset" a decline in the UK in 2008. Sales in France crept up by 0.7%.

The firm, which owns Vranken, Pommery, Charles Lafitte and Heidsieck brands, reiterated its view that the US Champagne market is in decline and said that it would increase its focus on duty-free operations in this market.