Shares in Pernod Ricard fell by 3.1% after the group reported a drop in first-half net operating profit to Eu157m from Eu169m a year ago. The drop was attributed to a Eu20m charge taken in connection with its acquisition of Allied Domecq, as well as a rise in advertising spend, which was up from 22.5% to 23.3% as a percentage of net sales. Operating profit rose to Eu288m from Eu282m. The Americas saw the strongest growth of all the regions, with operating profit up 19.7%. South America more than doubled its operating profit due to rising demand for Chivas and other imported whiskies. The company also announced that it had paid Eu100m for the right to sell Stolichnaya vodka worldwide. Pernod Ricard also has the right of first refusal for the renewal of the distribution rights at the end of the current agreements and for the acquisition of the brand, should it come up for sale. Patrick Ricard, the company’s chief executive, said that the integration of Allied Domecq was moving rapidly and would be completed in two years rather than three. Ricard said: "Our good results at the end of June 2005 and the growth prospects for the new brands acquired with Allied Domecq give me confidence in the success of the acquisition." Ricard added that the company was in talks with a number of parties over the sale of Allied’s QSR business.