China liquor maker Moutai flags strong 2017 sales, sees slower growth next year

FILE PHOTO: A customer walks past a glass case displaying Maotai liquors with different price tags at a supermarket in Shenyang, Liaoning province August 8, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese liquor maker Kweichow Moutai Co Ltd 600519.SS said on Thursday it expects revenue to have jumped 50 percent this year but added that sales growth would moderate sharply in 2018, with the firm aiming for a rise of at least 10 percent.

This year’s robust demand for its high-end bottles of fiery spirit baijiu comes after several sluggish years when lavish spending was hit by a government crackdown on corruption.

The rebound has in turn propelled its share price higher with Moutai now boasting a market value of about $128 billion - the biggest of any alcohol firm in the world and 43 percent higher than nearest rival Diageo DGE.L.

Moutai said it expected 2017 revenue would top 60 billion yuan ($9.2 billion), with the 50 percent growth rate marking its strongest rise since 2011.

Profits would grow around 58 percent, the firm said in a filing to the Shanghai Stock Exchange, without specifying what type of profit.

In the third quarter Moutai, whose bottles can sell for over $300 a pop, saw its revenues and profits more than double - the sharpest quarterly rises in over half a decade.

Moutai also said it would increase product prices by an average of 18 percent next year.

The firm’s shares, which have more than doubled this year, were up around 3.5 percent in trading on Thursday morning. The stock retreated from record highs in November after it cautioned investors about its fast share price rise.

Moutai, a household name in China, was once hailed as helping its Red Army survive the tortuous Long March in the 1930s. The pungent, colorless spirit baijiu, usually made from sorghum, outsells vodka worldwide.

Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Edwina Gibbs