May 3, 2012 / 12:50 PM / in 6 years

UPDATE 2-Beam profit surprises Wall St; shares up

* Q1 adj EPS $0.53 tops Wall St estimate of $0.47/shr

* Q1 sales $533.8 mln vs estimate of $507.8 mln

* Company stands by full-year earnings target

* Shares up 3.6 percent

By Martinne Geller

May 3 (Reuters) - Alcoholic beverage maker Beam Inc posted better-than-expected quarterly profit on Thursday, helped by higher sales and lower interest expense, sending shares up 3.6 percent.

The maker of Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark bourbons also stood by its full-year target to grow earnings per share by a rate in the high single digits.

Performance in the first quarter was a little better than the company had expected, as Beam benefited from strong demand and initial orders for new products, which include new Skinnygirl drink flavors and Pucker vodka.

First-quarter net income was $79.1 million, or 49 cents per share, compared with $81.2 million, or 52 cents per share, a year earlier, when results included operations now discontinued.

Excluding items, earnings were 53 cents per share. On that basis, analysts on average were expecting 47 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net sales rose 1.9 percent to $533.8 million. Analysts were expecting $507.8 million.

Comparable net sales rose 13 percent, fueled by triple-digit sales increases for Pucker vodka and Skinnygirl cocktails, and double-digit growth for brands including Kilbeggan Irish whiskey, Basil Hayden bourbon and Courvoisier cognac.

Beam shares were up $2.08, or 3.6 percent, at $59.77 in morning trading.

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