Jameson sales up 15% in last year


Sales of Jameson Irish whiskey grew by 15 per cent by volume in the year to the end of June, according to figures released today by its French parent, Pernod Ricard.

In revenue terms, Jameson sales grew by 21 per cent in the 12 months of the end of June, ahead of targets. The sales growth last year was the highest in the last decade.

Jameson is a key brand in the Irish Distillers portfolio of spirits and benefited from a €65 million global advertising campaign.

Sales to the US and eastern Europe showed strong sales growth with revenues from the US rising 24 per cent, Russia up 36 per cent and eastern Europe 37 per cent.

In Ireland, Pernod Ricard said Jameson performed showed “strong double-digit growth both North and South” in a market showing low, single digit growth.

Jameson achieved double-digit sales growth in 44 markets in Pernod Ricard's last financial year. Alexandre Ricard, who was appointed chairman and chief executive of Irish Distillers in July said Jameson remains a key brand for Pernod Ricard and that sales have grown from 450,000 to 2.6 million cases since 1988.

The company is targeting sales of 3 million cases by 2010.

Also today Pernod Ricard has lifted its full-year operating profit estimate today and said it would sell €1 billion ($1.57 billion) worth of assets to cut debt as it posted sales below expectations.

The French group also said it had completed its acquisition of Vin & Sprit, the Swedish drinks group that owns Absolut, the world's best-selling premium vodka, for €5.69 billion ($8.95 billion) including debt.

The deal lifted its debt to €11.9 billion at the end of June on a pro-forma basis from a little over €6 billion.

"After Seagram and Allied Domecq in 2001 and 2005, this is the third transformational acquisition for the Group," Pernod Ricard chief executive and chairman Patrick Ricard said in a statement.

Pernod, the world's second largest wine and spirits group behind Diageo, said it was confident in achieving the top end of its estimated cost savings from the acquisition of between €125 million and €150 million.

The savings coupled with asset disposals of €1 billion over the next 12 to 18 months should allow it to reduce its debt quickly, it said. The group's high gearing resulting from the deal has been a source of concern for investors.

"The €1 billion figure should reassure debt-obsessed investors," HSBC said in a note.

The news lifted the shares more than 7 per cent.

Pernod generated revenues of €6.58 billion in the year to June 30th, below expectations of €6.67 billion from Reuters Estimates.

Pernod Ricard estimated an increase of about 13 per cent of its operating profit from ordinary activities on a like-for-like basis for the year just ended in June, up from a 12 per cent increase estimate at the end of April.

Fourth-quarter revenues were down 3 per cent at €1.498 billion, which Pernod said was impacted by the earthquake in China. But on a like-for-like basis, fourth-quarter revenues rose 7 per cent.

Additional reporting Reuters