Pernod Q4 trends unchanged in Europe, Middle East, Africa

PARIS, June 26 Thu Jun 26, 2014 10:28am EDT

PARIS, June 26 (Reuters) - French drinks group Pernod Ricard said business trends in the Europe-Middle East-Africa (EMEA) region are broadly unchanged in the fourth quarter ending June 30 from those of the first nine months of the 2013/14 fiscal year.

The zone, which excludes France and Ireland, accounts for around 25 percent of sales at the world's second-biggest spirits group behind Britain's Diageo.

"We are more or less in line, with no major change," Christian Porta, EMEA head, said during a conference call on Thursday.

Underlying sales in EMEA grew 3.8 percent year-on-year in the nine months to March 31, with sales in Western Europe easing 0.3 percent and sales in Africa, Eastern Europe and Turkey rising 12.1 percent, company slides showed.

This compared with flat underlying sales for the group as a whole in the period.

Commenting on medium- and long-term prospects for western Europe, Porta said he saw "good growth potential" in northern Europe, led by a strong German market, thanks to growing demand for imported spirits, a strong economy and low unemployment, and by Britain, where the economy was also improving.

In southern Europe, which has been hit by austerity measures and high unemployment, Italy and Greece were close to stabilisation but Spain remained difficult, "with no real improvement in household consumption", he said.

Pernod was also optimistic about the prospects for eastern Europe, where low penetration of international spirits brands created a "huge reservoir of growth".

Pernod achieved underlying sales growth of 17 percent in Poland in the nine-month period. Sales in Russia were still growing, though not as fast as some 12 to 18 months ago.

Slower economic growth and a ban on alcohol advertising in Russia has hit mostly super-premium whisky and vodka brands, with sales of Pernod's Chivas Regal down 1 percent in the nine months. (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by James Regan)