PARIS (Reuters) - French spirits group Remy Cointreau (RCOP.PA) said it would again hand investors a special dividend after booming demand for its premium cognac in China lifted full-year profits and it slashed net debt by 43 percent.
The maker of Remy Martin cognac and Cointreau liqueur said on Tuesday that despite an uncertain economic and monetary climate in Europe it was confident it could generate “steady and profitable growth” and grow its brands.
Operating profit excluding exceptional items for the year ended March 31 rose 20.2 percent to 207.7 million euros ($259.85 million) on a like-for-like basis, which was above company guidance after sales rose a reported 15.6 percent.
Remy had forecast core profit growth of at least 15-18 percent, a range that was below analysts’ forecasts of around 22.5 percent.
Pernod Ricard and Diageo, the world’s biggest spirits makers, beat forecasts with strong sales growth in the first three months of 2012 as buoyant emerging market growth and a recovery in North America offset a weak Europe.
Remy’s cognac division, which makes the bulk of group sales and profits, achieved like-for-like operating profit growth of 21.6 percent, thanks to higher prices notably in Asia and robust demand from the United States, travel retail and Russia.
Remy, which has sold its champagne division, ended the year with net debt of 188.6 million euros.
It said it would pay an ordinary cash dividend of 1.30 euros per share, unchanged from 2010/11, and a special dividend of 1 euro per share, also unchanged from the previous financial year.
Remy shares have gained 31 percent this year, outperforming the European sector .SX3P, which rose 5.5 percent.
($1 = 0.7993 euros)
Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by James Regan