French spirits maker Pernod Ricard, which is being targeted by activist investor Elliott, posted a 1.3 percent rise in first-quarter underlying sales, reflecting slower growth rates in China and India.
In August Pernod, the world’s second-biggest spirits group behind Diageo, indicated it expected a relatively soft first quarter, citing a very high year-ago comparison basis in Asia.
For the first quarter ended September 30, Pernod reported sales of 2.483 billion euros ($2.75 billion), marking a like-for-like rise of 1.3 percent. This compared with a growth rate of 10.4 percent in the year-ago quarter.
The owner of Mumm champagne, Absolut vodka and Martell cognac said that despite an uncertain environment, it was keeping its forecast for a 5-7 percent organic rise in full-year profit from recurring operations after last year’s 8.7 percent growth.
In the first quarter alone, sales growth reached 6 percent in China compared to 27 percent in the year-ago quarter, reflecting notably a decline in Chivas sales due to challenging market conditions.
Martell cognac sales in China benefited from a price rise but sustainable inventory management weighed on volumes, said Pernod.
Its United States arm fared better and made a good start, delivering 6 percent sales growth in the first quarter.
Pernod Ricard is under pressure from US hedge fund Elliott, which has a 2.5 percent stake, to improve profit margins and corporate governance.