Belfast Telegraph

China's thirst propels Diageo to £3.2bn profit

By David Elliott

A growing taste for Northern Ireland-made spirits in China combined with an unquenchable thirst for Guinness across Ireland have helped the stout's maker post a heady performance over the last year.

Diageo said it made £3.2bn in operating profits, before exception items, in the year to the end of June, an 11% increase on the same period in 2011 and ahead of expectations.

Growing demand for its premium spirits, such as Bushmills Whiskey, Baileys Irish Cream, Johnnie Walker whisky and Smirnoff Vodka, in Asia and Latin America have been behind much of the growth while sales of Guinness helped.

The iconic stout has maintained its place as the most popular on the island of Ireland, accounting for one in three pints sold. Guinness exports have grown 4% on the year.

Baileys and Bushmills closely follow Guinness as the company's top export brands and have found a willing audience in China where sales for the former climbed 42% on the year.

That's good news for Northern Ireland as Bushmills whiskey is made at the Antrim distillery while 65% of the world's total production of Baileys Irish Cream is made at the company's Mallusk factory.

Success for Diageo can boost farmers here as the firms buy around €270m (£213m) of produce from farms across the island of Ireland.

It purchases 13% of the total annual domestic production of barley from both the Republic and Northern Ireland, mostly for beer or whiskey production.

Country director for Diageo Northern Ireland Michael McCann said the company had performed well here.

"Despite the ongoing difficult and challenging economic environment in which we operate, both here on the island of Ireland and in western Europe, Diageo Ireland has delivered steady results with our iconic local brands performing well. Bushmills has delivered double digit increases in both volume and net sales," he said.

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

This week's business news headlines, directly to your inbox every Tuesday.