Pernod Ricard announced strong results for its first half of the year. Wines and spirits operating profit was up by 11.1% on a like-for-like basis. Net profit was £115m, a rise of 4.7% against the same period last year. Patrick Ricard, chairman and chief executive, said: "I am delighted with the very good performance achieved on the first half year and the strong growth of our premium brands." He went on to say the company has revised its prospects for the rest of 2004: "At present we expect organic growth of 8 to 10% in operating profit." Sustained growth in organic sales of 6% helped drive the sharp rise in profitability. The company's key brands all grew worldwide, with Chivas and The Glenlivet both up by 11%, Jameson by 12%, and Martell by 8%. The company has also benefited from its concentration on the premium brands, which has driven a rise in gross margin from 65.8% to 66.6% (67.8% excluding the currency effect). Sales growth was driven by America and Asia, which contributed 80% of the sales growth. At the presentation of the results Richard Burrows, director general, commented on the sales growth: "Pernod Ricard has now reached critical mass in all regions except France." However, the company did complain of the effects of the exchange rates. The currency effect on operating profit lost the company 10.6%, or £20m. This was due to sales achieved in areas of depreciating currency like the US and Asia, being offset by production and operating costs in countries with appreciating currency like the Euro and the Pound. The company also announced that this financial year would be a year of three halves. As a result of this the next financial year will begin halfway through 2005.