Stock Spirits appoints CEO, says first-half core profit up 66 percent

(Reuters) - Vodka maker Stock Spirits Group Plc STCK.L appointed Miroslaw Stachowicz as its chief executive and said its first-half core profit before exceptionals rose 66 percent.

Stachowicz’s appointment comes nearly four months after he was made interim CEO in April, after one of the company’s largest shareholders succeeded in its bid to remove Chris Heath, its previous chief executive.

Western Gate Private Investments, which owns a 9.7 percent stake in Stock Spirits, said in April it “strongly supported” Stachowicz’s appointment as interim chief.

Western Gate is the private family office of Portuguese businessman Luis Amaral, who is also the CEO of Stock Spirits' biggest Polish customer, Eurocash SA EUR.WA.

Stock Spirits, which has been tackling a decline in its key Polish business, said the overall vodka market in Poland had returned to volume growth in the year-to-date.

Stachowicz said the growth of the Polish economy and new government policies aimed at enhancing the income of families had helped the alcoholic beverage market to grow.

“The more people have disposable income, the more they are willing to pay for quality and experience,” Stachowicz told Reuters.

The company said its first-half core profit before exceptionals rose to 17.9 million euros (15.3 million pounds), compared with 10.8 million euros a year earlier.

The result comes after a tumultuous battle between Western Gate and Stock Spirits, which ended with the company appointing two new directors and undertaking a review of its merger and acquisitions strategy.

Stock Spirits came under fire after it lost market share in Poland last year and reported a 19 percent fall in core profit for 2015.

“It is too early to say that the stock has decisively turned the corner, but initial signs are positive,” Numis analysts wrote in a note to clients. The brokerage raised its price target on the company to 170 pence from 135 pence, and kept its “hold” rating.

Shares in the company were up 0.9 percent at 161 pence on the London Stock Exchange at 0837 GMT, outperforming a marginal rise in the FTSE small-cap index .FTSC.

Reporting by Mamidipudi Soumithri in Bengaluru; Editing by Sunil Nair