Pernod Ricard says virus woes will still have major impact on Q2

PARIS, Oct 22 (Reuters) - French spirits maker Pernod Ricard said sales would return to growth in the second half of its 2020/2021 fiscal year, although the downturn in travel retail and disruptions from the COVID crisis would still impact its second quarter.

Pernod, which is the world’s second-biggest spirits group behind Diageo, made the forecast after its first quarter sales sequentially improved, beating expectations and reflecting resilient home consumption in Europe and the United States amid the pandemic, and improving sales in China.

Pernod Ricard’s fiscal year started on July 1.

Pernod, which owns Martell cognac, Mumm champagne and Absolut vodka, has along with its peers been hurt by the pandemic, which has led to closures of bars and restaurants in many countries and travel restrictions that have hit duty free travel. Travel retail makes 6% of group’s sales.

For the first quarter ended Sept. 30, Pernod reported sales of 2.236 billion euros ($2.65 billion), marking a like-for-like decline of 6%, but also an improvement on a 36.2 % fall in the fourth quarter of its last fiscal year which ended on June 30.

The numbers were also better than market expectations of a 13.1% quarterly sales fall.

$1 = 0.8443 euros Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta