February 7, 2019 / 8:13 AM / 6 months ago

Pernod CEO hopes new strategy plan will please all its shareholders

FILE PHOTO: Alexandre Ricard, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of French drinks maker Pernod Ricard, poses before the news confernce to announce the company annual results in Paris, France, August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - The boss of Pernod Ricard said on Thursday that the priority of the French spirits group, which is under pressure from activist investor Elliott, was to create long-term value and added he had no plans to sell its champagne assets.

The owner of the Mumm and Perrier-Jouet champagnes and Martell cognac also said he was “confident” on China even though it was premature to discuss demand during the Chinese New Year festivities that stated on Feb. 5.

Ricard added that the family-backed group, which recently named Patricia Barbizet as Lead Independent Director, could make further changes to its governance but would do so “under its own timetable”.

“My priority is to deliver. Our performance is accelerating. My priority is to create durable value and I hope this will please all our shareholders,” Alexandre Ricard told Reuters.

Asked if he could sell his Champagne assets, as suggested by some analysts, Ricard said: “No”.

He was speaking after Pernod Ricard released forecast-beating first-half profits, driven by demand in China, and raised its full year profit guidance while it also provided new targets under a three year strategy plan.

U.S. activist fund Elliott said in December it had spent around 930 million euros ($1.1 billion) to build a stake of just over 2.5 percent in the world’s second-biggest spirits maker.

Elliott has called on Pernod Ricard to raise profit margins to bring them more in line with larger rival Diageo and improve governance, suggesting suggested 500 million euros in cost cuts and options such as merging with another spirits company.

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta

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