January 30, 2014 / 7:31 AM / 5 years ago

Diageo sales growth slows on emerging market weakness

A man walks past a building in the Diageo Shieldhall facility near Glasgow, Scotland August 26, 2010. REUTERS/David Moir

LONDON (Reuters) - Diageo (DGE.L), the world’s biggest distilled spirits company, said net sales growth had slowed in the latest period, hurt by weakness in China, Thailand and Nigeria.

The maker of Johnnie Walker whisky, Smirnoff vodka and Guinness beer reported a 1.8 percent rise in sales for the first half of its fiscal year, following a rise of 2.2 percent in the first quarter.

A Chinese government crackdown on gift-giving and personal spending by civil servants has hammered sales of spirits like cognac and high-end baiju, eroding sales for Diageo and its rivals, Pernod Ricard (PERP.PA) and Remy Cointreau (RCOP.PA).

But compared with its French rivals, Diageo has the benefit of a broad geographic footprint, following the purchase of local drinks firms in places like Turkey, Brazil and India.

In the six months ended December 31, net sales rose 4.6 percent in North America and 1.3 percent in emerging markets. Sales fell 1 percent in western Europe.

Earnings before items were 62.6 pence per share.

Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Jason Neely and David Holmes

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