Diageo records robust India growth with United Spirits

fe Bureau Posted online: Friday, Jan 31, 2014 at 0000 hrs
Bangalore : Diageo’s India sales grew in double digits in the six months ended December, driven partly by its distribution arrangement with United Spirits Ltd, even as the British liquor giant’s stake purchase in the Indian distiller continues to be dogged by an uncertainty over the UB Group’s ongoing legal battles.

Diageo’s appeal against Karnataka HC ruling, which annulled a 6.98% stake purchase in USL, is scheduled to come up for hearing in the Supreme Court on Friday. Diageo is the largest shareholder in USL with a 26.37% stake which it acquired in stages last year through a share purchase agreement with Vijay Mallya, besides an open market purchase. However, one of its share purchase transaction, involving the purchase of a 6.98% stake from Mallya’s holding company, United Breweries Holdings (UBHL), was struck down last month by the Karnataka HC while hearing a petition filed against UBHL by its creditors.

Gilbert Ghostine, president, Diageo Asia Pacific, said, “We saw strong growth in India and started to see benefits from the USL sales promotion agreement that we have put in place.”

“India delivered strong double-digit net sales growth, driven by volume share gains and initial distribution gains resulting from our sales promotion agreement with USL, lower stock in trade at the start of the financial year and a soft comparison against the prior period,” the company said.

The Johnnie Walker net sales grew 87% and delivered almost half of the Indian arm’s growth, while Smirnoff vodka’s net sales grew in double digits.