* Q1 underlying sales growth 5 pct vs 6.2 pct forecast
* Eyes underlying growth in 2012/13 profit close to 6 pct
* Compares with 9 pct in past year
* Asian demand still strong but slowing, solid U.S. growth
* Shares up 0.5 percent
By Dominique Vidalon
PARIS, Oct 25 Pernod Ricard predicted
a slowdown in profit growth in the current year after easing
Asian demand for Martell cognac and Scotch whiskies dragged
quarterly sales below forecasts.
Pernod is the latest spirits company to say it faced slowing
growth in Asia, after recent updates from rivals Diageo
and Remy Cointreau stoked fears that weaker economic
growth in the region was cooling demand for premium spirits.
The world's second-biggest spirits group behind Britain's
Diageo predicted a rise in underlying profit from recurring
operations of close to 6 percent in the year to June 30, 2013, a
slowdown from 9 percent in fiscal 2012.
Chief Executive Pierre Pringuet said on Thursday he expected
the full year to follow the trend seen in Pernod's first quarter
"We are expecting neither a deterioration nor an improvement
from the market trends seen in the first quarter," Pringuet
The owner of Absolut vodka and Mumm champagne reported a 5
percent rise in underlying first-quarter sales, against an
average forecast of 6.2 percent from 10 analysts polled by
Reuters, and said demand was more moderate in Asia though still
strong, while the United States showed good momentum.
Falling sales in austerity-hit southern Europe, notably
Spain, also weighed on quarterly sales.
Asia-Pacific accounts for 39 percent of group sales against
26 percent for America and 26 percent for Europe, excluding
Pernod also said second-quarter underlying sales growth
would suffer from unfavourable comparisons with the year-ago
quarter, which was boosted by French buying ahead of an excise
duty hike and an early Chinese New Year.
Pernod shares opened down 1.3 percent but quickly moved back
into positive territory to trade up 0.5 percent to 85 euros by
0733 GMT, as analysts took the company's a traditionally
conservative outlook in their stride.
"Consensus is currently looking for close to 9 percent
(profit growth), which we think will probably move towards our
estimate of 7.5 percent given uncertainty on European, French
and Asian growth," Jefferies analysts said in a note.
Pernod shares have gained 18 percent this year,
outperforming the STOXX Europe 600 food and beverage index
, which has risen 16 percent.
Demand in China, Pernod's second-largest market after the
United States and which accounts for roughly 13 percent of group
sales, was hit by a slowing economy but remained "very dynamic",
Pringuet told Reuters.
Recent updates from other spirits makers have pointed to a
slowdown in Asia.
Remy Cointreau reported a sharp slowdown in sales growth in
the last three months, saying Asian wholesalers were holding
back on new cognac orders, while Diageo also said Asia Pacific
trading had been hampered in the quarter.
Martell cognac remained Pernod's main growth driver, showing
growth of 23 percent, followed by Indian whiskies. Scotch
whiskies experienced a slowdown in Korea, China and Thailand. In
China alone, Scotch whisky sales fell 1 percent.
Central and eastern European markets were strong, partially
offsetting a 6 percent sales decline in western Europe. In Spain
sales fell 5 percent, while France, which makes 9 percent of
group sales, remained poor as sales fell 8 percent after excise