Belfast Telegraph

Diageo raises glass to a surge in year end profits

By Ben Woods

Drinks giant Diageo has toasted a brighter outlook after securing a hefty jump in sales and profits thanks to a leg-up from the Brexit-hit pound. The Smirnoff vodka and Guinness maker said operating profit surged 25% to £3.6bn for the year ending in June, while reported net sales climbed 15% to £12.1bn over the period.

The group was boosted by healthy growth in international markets and strong Scotch sales, while sterling's weakness laid the foundations for an extra lift when translating overseas earnings back into pounds. Stripping out acquisitions and currency movements, annual operating profit grew by 6% to £3.6bn.

Chief executive Ivan Menezes said: "We have delivered consistent strong performance improvement across all regions and I am pleased with progress in our focus areas of US Spirits, Scotch and India.

"Our productivity work is delivering ahead of expectations allowing us to reinvest in our brands, drive margin improvement and generate consistent strong cash flow."

Shares soared nearly 7% in morning trading on the London Stock Exchange, as the firm hiked its profit margin growth target, raised the annual dividend by 5% and announced a £1.5bn share buy-back scheme to be paid out in 2018.

Diageo, which owns 200 brands across 180 countries, said Scotch sales rose by 5% over the period, as Johnnie Walker and Buchanan's climbed by 6% and 16% respectively.

However, vodka, which represents 12% of the group's net sales, dropped by 4%, as Ciroc and Ketel One struggled on the American market.

In total, US sales stepped up by 3% over the period, while Europe, Russia and Turkey grew by 5%, and Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean rose by 5% and 9% respectively.

The firm said exchange rate shifts could deal an £80m hit to net sales in 2018, but had the potential to boost operating profits by £70m.

Diageo announced last month that it had inked a $1bn deal (£790m) to buy premium tequila brand Casamigos founded by Hollywood actor George Clooney and entrepreneur Rande Gerber.

Steve Clayton, fund manager at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the results delivered "encouraging news" for investors.

"Currency movements gave the company a big helping hand, but the underlying progress was strong too. The company are raising their targets for boosting profit margins," he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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