Pernod Ricard on Thursday forecasted a return to organic sales growth in the full year, after a strong performance in its key U.S. and Chinese markets helped the French spirits group beat estimates for first-half profit and sales.
Double-digit sales growth in China and a 5% sales rise in the United States propped up results for Pernod, the world's second-biggest spirits group after Diageo, as stuck-at-home consumers splurged on its Jameson Irish whiskey and Martell cognac.
Diageo also reported an unexpected rise in first-half underlying net sales growth as its premium tequila and bourbon flew off the shelves at U.S. retail stores.
Still, Pernod flagged continued uncertainty and volatility as the COVID-19 crisis weighed on duty-free sales and alcohol consumption in bars and restaurants.
Pernod, whose fiscal year starts on 1 July, said profit from current operations in the six months to 31 December reached €1.595 billion ($1.93 billion), an organic decline of 2.4% that was still better than analysts' expectations for a 7.9% fall.
Sales reached €4.985 billion, representing an organic decline of 3.9%, compared with analysts' expectations for a 5.4% drop.
“Despite an extremely difficult environment, we had a solid start to the financial year, with sales of Jameson Irish whiskey showing resilience by growing 3% in the first half of the year," said Conor McQuaid, chairman and CEO of Irish Distillers.
“Jameson sold 4.75 million cases, which was its highest ever volumes in the first half of the year. This was aided by sales of over 2 million cases in the US in the first half of the year for the second year in row but was also buoyed by growth in other key markets including the UK, Russia, and Ireland. The brand also saw continued growth in emerging markets including Nigeria, India, and Brazil," he added.
Last month, smaller French peer Remy Cointreau beat third-quarter sales forecasts and said it was confident that demand for its premium cognac in China and the United States would fuel a profit recovery this year.