November 23, 2017 / 7:04 AM / in 18 days

UPDATE 3-Remy Cointreau misses profit forecast, shares fall

* Shares fall, having hit record highs at start of Nov.

* Operating profit 134.1 mln euros, up 11.8 pct

* H1 cognac division operating profit up 17.6 pct

* Louis XIII cognac/Pharrell Williams pop song tie-up (Adds comments from CEO and fund manager)

By Dominique Vidalon

PARIS, Nov 23 (Reuters) - French spirits group Remy Cointreau delivered first-half profits that came in slightly short of forecasts on Thursday, knocking its shares off record highs.

Rebounding demand in China and robust sales in its core U.S. market helped it record an 11.8-percent jump in first-half current operating profits to 134.1 million euros ($159 million)on a like-for-like basis.

But the figures from the maker of Remy Martin cognac and Cointreau liquor came in slightly below a consensus forecast of 137.3 million euros.

Analysts said the group’s investments in its recently acquired single malt brands Domaine des hautes Glaces and Westland had weighed on profits, as had the deconsolidation of its Passoa liqueur brand.

Remy maintained its forecast for growth at constant exchange rates, said it was confident over second-half prospects for cognac demand and promised to press on with advertising and promotion.

Chief executive Valérie Chapoulaud-Floquet said the recent Chinese Autumn Festival holiday period had been good for Remy, which augured well for the Chinese New Year in February.

Private consumption of drinks and spirits has been picking up in China, offsetting the impact of an anti-corruption crackdown in the country on expensive gifts in recent years.

“China is confirming its rebound with an excellent mid-Autumn festival,” Chapoulaud-Floquet told reporters.

PHARRELL SONG

In the United States, Remy Martin sales were growing at double-digits, benefiting from robust demand and from the fact that one of its rivals - the world’s biggest cognac firm and LVMH unit Hennessy - was running low on stocks.

Remy said its strategy of focusing on selling spirits priced at $50 plus a bottle to boost profits had helped offset a rise in costs on communications and branding.

One such marketing cost was a Pharrell Williams song for Remy’s pricey Louis XIII cognac unveiled in Shanghai last week.

Remy has focused on higher-priced spirits, such as the $3,000-per-bottle Louis XIII cognac, in contrast to rival Pernod Ricard which has less-expensive brands in China.

The Remy Martin cognac division, which accounts for 80 percent of group profits, saw operating profits rise 17.6 percent on a like-for-like basis to 115.5 million euros.

Shares in Remy, which hit a high of 114.10 euros at the start of November, were down 3.32 percent at 107.6 euros at 1011 GMT, although they are still up by around 33 percent in 2017.

“The results were a bit below forecasts, but the stock has risen by more than 30 percent this year and so that’s led to a bit of profit-taking,” Keren Finance fund manager Gregory Moore, whose firm recently sold its Remy shares, said.

Meriem Mokdad, fund manager at Roche Brune Asset Management, pointed out weaker profit at the smaller Liqueurs and Spirits division due notably to the Passoa deconsolidation.

Remy Cointreau shares are trading at 33.4 times estimated 2018 earnings, marking a 65 percent premium to the average for the beverages sector and representing a performance more in line with that of luxury goods stocks.

$1 = 0.8455 euros Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Alexander Smith and Andrew Heavens

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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