Pernod Ricard’s shares rise on hopes of growth recovery

PARIS, Feb 15 (Reuters) – Pernod Ricard’s (PERP.PA), shares rose over 6% on Thursday as the French spirits maker left its longer-term growth ambitions intact, even as it cut its full-year sales estimate and its share buyback programme.

The world’s second-largest spirits maker, which has faced challenges in its key markets of the United States and China, said it now expected full-year sales to flat-line, against a previous forecast for growth.

It also cut its share buyback programme for this financial year to 300 million euros ($322 million) from the 500-800 million planned previously.

But the maker of Martell cognac, Mumm champagne and Asbolut Vodka said it was still aiming to achieve closer to 7% sales growth in the medium-term – towards the top of its range, reassuring some investors who had feared a cut to its ambitions.

Longer-term, U.S. challenges are set to recede, the company still has plenty of room to grow in China as incomes rise, and it is set to benefit from demographic trends, urbanisation and economic growth in India, CEO Alexandre Ricard said.

“These fundamentals have not changed,” he told analysts.

“This is the very, very good news,” said Marco Scherer, a portfolio manager at Pernod investor Metzler Asset Management, of Pernod’s decision to maintain its medium-term ambitions.

Pernod had also achieved a slight improvement to its operating margins despite a difficult environment, he said, adding the company was well managed.

While Pernod’s key rival Diageo (DGE.L), also maintained its medium-term guidance of 5-7% organic net sales growth at its recent results, it said growth would be below this in 2025.

Jefferies analyst Edward Mundy said in a note that Pernod’s medium-term ambitions and hopes for a better second half could indicate a better performance than its bigger rival.

Pernod’s shares, which have fallen around 15% in the last 12 months, were inexpensive given its medium-term potential, he added.

Pernod had been banking on signs of improvement in the U.S. and China in its second quarter, but they failed to materialise.

Overall, half-year sales were down 3% on an organic basis, matching analyst expectations.

Pernod’s shares were up 3.7% at 1004 GMT.

($1 = 0.9314 euros)

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon in Paris and Emma Rumney in London Editing by Kim Coghill and Mark Potter

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